U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Tuesday that applications are being accepted for grants to finance broadband deployment in remote, rural areas, including Puerto Rico. The announcement is one part of the agency’s efforts to strengthen the rural economy, he said.
“The Obama Administration believes that reliable infrastructure is critical to rural economic opportunity. Broadband service expands educational, medical and health services for rural residents,” Vilsack said. “Expanded broadband service also is important because it supports employment opportunities and makes income growth possible in rural areas.”
Through this notice, USDA Rural Development may award up to $21 million in grants through the Community Connect Grant program. It serves rural communities where broadband service is not available, but where it can make a tremendous difference in the quality of life for citizens.
For example, last year USDA provided a grant to the isolated Alaska Native Community of Saint Paul. Located in Alaska’s Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea, the town of about 500 is installing a modern system, and the Native-owned firm that will operate it estimates that in the next five years Internet access will result in saving or creating an estimated additional 44 full time jobs including the five existing jobs on the island. The project will also support 23 construction and clerical jobs.
Since its inception, the Community Connect program has funded 229 projects with USDA investments of $122 million. In 2012, USDA assistance led to improved broadband service nationwide for nearly 65,000 rural households, businesses and community institutions – such as libraries, schools and first responders.
For more information, see page 34979 of the June 11, 2013 Federal Register, or click here. The deadline for submitting applications is July 11.