In an ongoing effort to expand the country’s rural broadband infrastructure, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has introduced a new web page designed to explain a $600 million pilot program geared for broadband construction.
The web page is part of a larger program targeting areas with populations of less than 20,000 where there is not currently access to service with speeds of 10 megabits per second.
The USDA estimates that some 80 percent of an estimated 24 million households in rural and tribal areas are currently lacking affordable high-speed internet service.
In a statement, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue said, “Rural high-speed broadband e-connectivity is as important for economic development as rails, roads, bridges, and airports; and as vital as the buildouts of rural telephone networks were decades ago.”
Purdue added that the USDA is committed to “being a strong partner with rural leaders in developing this essential infrastructure.”
Funding for the pilot program has been secured through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which was approved by Congress earlier this spring.
According to USDA officials, the program will spearhead broadband infrastructure construction for schools and hospitals in rural areas, as well as overall communities.
Those who may be available for the pilot program funding include rural electricity cooperatives, broadband service providers, national and regional private companies, as well as state and local government agencies.
The announcement of the USDA’s pilot program is preceding the actual application procedures which are expected to be announced shortly in the Federal Register and through the department’s own public information office.
By Garry Boulard
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