U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday announced that the department is awarding $502 million in loans and grants to provide high-speed internet access for rural residents and businesses in 20 states.
The funding is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to investing in rural infrastructure and providing reliable, affordable, high-speed internet for all, according to a press release. The USDA is making the investments through the third funding round of the ReConnect Program. The department will make additional investments for rural high-speed internet in the coming months, including funding from Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides a historic $65 billion investment to expand affordable, high-speed internet to all communities across the U.S.
The announcement includes a $25.11 million project through Winnebago Cooperative Telephone Association to deploy a fiber-to-the-home network in Freeborn County. This network will connect 3,597 people, 80 businesses and 458 farms to high-speed internet. Half of the award will be in the form of a loan and the other half will be a grant.
“President Biden’s commitment to high-speed internet in rural communities is foundational to ensuring that the nation’s economy continues to expand from the bottom up and the middle out,” Vilsack said. “High-speed internet will improve the rural economy. It will help rural businesses grow and get access to new markets. It will help rural residents get access to more and better health care and educational opportunities. USDA knows rural America is America’s backbone, and prosperity here means prosperity for all.”
USDA is making 32 awards in Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. Many of the awards will help rural people and businesses on tribal lands and people in socially vulnerable communities.
USDA has announced $858 million in the third round of ReConnect funding so far and plans to make more investment announcements under this program in the coming weeks. The Thursday announcement follows the Department’s July 28 announcement that it has invested $356 million through the ReConnect Program to help very rural residents and businesses in 11 states gain access to high-speed internet.