New USDA Rules Target Broadband Service in Unserved Rural Areas

  • Community Connect
  • The United States Department of Agriculture
WASHINGTON, DC - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new rules to better target Community Connect broadband grants to areas where they are needed the most. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today's announcement is one part of the Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy.

"These rules give communities better access to the benefits that broadband service provides," Vilsack said. "The Obama Administration is working to ensure that rural residents share in the opportunities provided by modern Internet service."

USDA Rural Development's Community Connect Grant program serves rural communities where broadband service is least likely to be available, but where it can make a tremendous difference in the quality of life for citizens.

The changes:

  • Simplify the application process by requiring a single project summary and map.

  • Allow grant applicants to use a USDA web-based mapping tool to define their proposed service area. The old rules did not accommodate some of the most rural communities, which often are not Census-designated places or were not recognized by a commercial atlas.

  • Give grant applicants more flexibility on the types of resources, in-kind services and monetary contributions that can be used to meet the 15 percent matching fund requirement.

  • Allow USDA to consider giving funding priority to projects in: persistent poverty counties; communities experiencing population declines; the most rural areas.

USDA's Rural Utilities Service plans to publish information on Community Connect funding opportunities, including application deadlines and the amount of assistance available, in the Federal Register soon.


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