Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Thursday that USDA is accepting applications for grants to enhance telecommunications and broadcast services in rural areas, including those in Puerto Rico.
“This funding will help small, rural communities across the country gain access to communications technologies to improve health, education and other services,” Vilsack said. “It will help open doors to the global marketplace. It will deliver specialized medical care and educational services. It will ensure that public television stations can fully convert to digital signals and transmit public safety, health, educational and cultural programming in isolated areas.”
The funding is available from the Community Connect Grant Program, the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program, and the Public Television Station Digital Transition Grant Program.
Through the Community Connect Grant Program, USDA plans to provide up to $13 million to fund broadband in unserved areas to support economic growth and deliver enhanced educational, health care and public safety services. Awardees must serve an area where broadband does not exist, provide a community center with broadband access, and offer broadband service to all residential and business customers, the agency explained.
The USDA is also making available up to $19.3 million in Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program grants to fund access to rural education, training and health care resources. The DLT program finances telecommunications-enabled equipment and advanced technologies for people who live and work in rural areas.
In the Public Television Station Digital Transition Grant Program, USDA will provide up to $2 million as part of its support of rural telecommunications and broadcast services. Funds can be used to acquire, lease or install equipment or software to complete the transition to digital broadcast signals.