The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $103 million in grants awarded to 16 states to expand rural broadband yesterday. The money will be shared across broadband authorities and private companies in the group of states. USDA said the awards were meant to close the digital divide between rural and urban areas. Arkansas, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming were awarded funds. Five other states were awarded loans in various amounts for similar projects.
The USDA has been working to help rural and underserved areas become more efficient through a variety of initiatives. As CivSource noted yesterday the REAP program provides rural families and businesses with grant money for renewable energy projects. The department is also funding rural broadband access. The grants awarded yesterday will go to a combination of state agencies and private companies tasked with building out the broadband infrastructure. Companies like Crystal Broadband Networks and InterMountain Cable were awarded funds to support projects already in the works.
In addition to these awards, five states were given loans for their projects. The loans are part of USDA’s Rural Development Program and will also go to expand broadband.
On the heels of this announcement, ConnectME Authority the broadband managing authority for Maine, announced its own awards of $1.6 million in grants to cities and companies throughout the state. Maine is working through a significant broadband expansion, this last round of awards makes 76 grants totaling nearly $6 million in funds for projects that will serve over 30,000 Maine residents.