The USDA announced the availability of loans to build broadband in rural areas, along with changes to the program required by the 2014 Farm Bill. Applicants can request loans for as much as $20 million, agency officials said.
Applications will be accepted through Sept. 30, 2015.
“USDA is committed to providing broadband to rural areas,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “Broadband is as vital as electricity was 80 years ago. Since 2009, USDA investments have delivered broadband service to 1.5 million households, businesses, schools, libraries, and community facilities.”
“But our work is not done. With program improvements and available funding made possible by the Farm Bill, we can continue our work to make broadband more accessible to those who live and work in rural areas,” he said.
Over the years, Puerto Rico applicants have received significant funding for differnet projects, including the Ana G. Méndez University System, which received $566,505 last year, and the Puerto Rico Public Broadcasting Corp., which received $465,739 in 2013, said José Otero-García, USDA Rural Development State Director for Puerto Rico.
The USDA is establishing two funding cycles to review and prioritize applications for the Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee program. USDA also is setting a minimum level of acceptable broadband service at 4 megabits downstream and I megabits upstream to meet future needs.
To be eligible for funding, an applicant must serve an area where at least 15 percent of the households are unserved. Applications with the most unserved households will be processed first, the agency said.