The US Department of Agriculture has opened an application period for some $12 million in grants that will be available to rural broadband expansion projects nationwide. The grants will be administered through the Community Connect program.
The grants fund broadband infrastructure to help foster economic growth by delivering connectivity to the global marketplace. The grants also fund broadband for community centers and public institutions. USDA has already invested $160 million in more than 240 projects to bring broadband to unserved rural communities since the Community Connect Program was created in 2002.
The minimum grant is $100,000 for FY 2016. The maximum award is $3 million.
Rural broadband has been a key focus area for the Obama administration. Rural areas across the US are often only served by dial-up or DSL which can make it difficult for businesses and schools to have the level of internet access they need. USDA tightened the rules that govern Community Connect in 2013 to enable the program to better target rural areas. Community Connect is administered by USDA’s Rural Utilities Service and helps to fund broadband deployment into rural communities where it is not economically viable for private sector providers to provide service.
“Through Community Connect and our other telecommunications programs, USDA helps to ensure that rural residents have access to broadband to run businesses, get the most from their education and benefit from the infinite services that fast, reliable broadband provides,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement on the new round of grant funding.