A new round of federal funding is on its way to the states as part of an ongoing effort to expand internet access in rural areas.
The funding is coming through the Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Pilot Program and is designed to build broadband infrastructure in the many remote areas of the country still lacking it.
In announcing the funding, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue said the need for rural broadband “has never been more apparent than it is now as our nation manages the coronavirus national emergency.”
“Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children, and remote business operations all require access to broadband,” continued Purdue.
Some $550 million is being made available for broadband construction projects. That figure includes $200 million for grants, and another $200 million for grant and loan combinations. The remaining funding will go for low-interest loans.
Funding eligibility is restricted to any town with less than 20,000 residents, or areas surrounding a town with no more than 50,000 people.
The program is additionally targeting areas where at least 90 percent of the households don’t currently have internet access.
State and local governments, as well as Native American tribes, have been invited to apply for the funding.
By Garry Boulard
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