Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says his agency is providing $759 million to improve internet access for people living and working in 24 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Palau. The investments include funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that provides $65 billion to help expand reliable, affordable, high-speed internet access to communities across the United States.
The $759 million in loans and grants comes from the third round of funding under the ReConnect Program. USDA is issuing a total of 49 awards in states like Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, South Dakota, and many others. So far this year, USDA has announced $1.6 billion from the third round of ReConnect funding.
“People living in rural towns across the nation need high-speed internet to run their businesses, go to school, and connect with their loved ones,” says Vilsack. “That’s how you grow the economy, not just for rural areas, but across the nation.”
Mitch Landrieu is a White House senior adviser and President Biden’s Infrastructure Coordinator. He says rural areas need better internet access for many reasons.
“We’re building a better America by ensuring that our investments reach everyone, including our rural and underserved communities. Rural communities are the backbone of our nation, but for too long, they’ve been left behind, and they have been under-recognized. For too long, they haven’t had access to basic resources like affordable, reliable, high-speed internet. And considering that we all know how essential the internet is to access life-saving telemedicine, to tap into economic opportunity, to connect with loved ones, to work on precision agriculture, and so much more, that’s just beyond unacceptable that that’s not available in rural America. That is why, today, we are so excited to announce $759 million from the Department of Agriculture to bring high-speed internet access to communities across 24 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Palau.”
Vilsack says rural America provides a large boost to the U.S. economy and needs reliable internet to continue doing so.
“If you think about it, rural America provides our nation’s food and energy resources, produces the fiber for goods and manufacturing, contributes more than 35 percent of our nation’s military, and operates about 80 percent of the nation’s critical infrastructure lifelines. We can ensure that rural communities have access to the internet connectivity needed to continue to expand the economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”
The $759 million in loans and grants comes from the third funding round of the ReConnect Program. For more information about investment resources for rural areas, go to rd.usda.gov.