Bold New Waves of High-Speed Internet and Infrastructure Funding Radiate across Rural America, Stimulating Economic Growth

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has kicked off a series of ambitious initiatives, eying high-speed internet, clean water, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and economic growth.

During a recent visit to Edgecombe County, North Carolina, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden unveiled 216 projects encompassing 45 states, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands, with a staggering total investment of $772.6 million. This funding, part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, aims to empower over a million residents in rural regions.

WHY IT MATTERS

Tackling the digital divide, which has been a longstanding hurdle for rural communities, offers immediate and long-term benefits. It proffers improved access to education through online learning, increased opportunities for remote work, expanded access to telemedicine, and accelerates the growth of small businesses.

DISTINCT PATHWAYS TO CONNECTIVITY

With an impressive $51.7 million set aside for high-speed internet improvement via the Reconnect Program and the Broadband Technical Assistance Program, the USDA confirms its commitment to bridging the digital gaps across rural areas. Through the Broadband Technical Assistance Program, $9.7 million will be funneled into 24 organizations to amplify high-speed internet access in rural and Tribal communities across 17 states. These funds will also catalyze and augment broadband cooperatives in underserved areas.

Meanwhile, the ReConnect Program is providing $42 million in grants to bring high-speed internet to remote, underserved, and rural communities – a tremendous stride in the path to a fully connected America.

A glimpse of this connectivity expansion can be seen in Florida, where a $17.8 million grant will benefit 19,000 citizens, 480 businesses, 650 farms, and 42 educational facilities in several counties. Additionally, IBT Group USA LLC will render high-speed internet more affordable by participating in the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline Program and Affordable Connectivity Program.

EXPANDING BEYOND INTERNET

Beyond digital connectivity, the Rural Partners Network (RPN) is funding projects to expand access to jobs, business opportunities, quality health care, clean water, and renewable energy. Approximately $76.6 million of the funding will support 32 projects in seven states.

In North Carolina, a $5 million grant will support an addition to the county courthouse, providing vital services to residents and businesses. In West Virginia, a $150,000 grant will help Brunetti’s Italian Bakery to install a solar array, saving the business nearly $14,000 annually in energy costs.

Besides, USDA is allocating $644.2 million to facilitate 158 rural utilities in providing clean drinking water and sanitary wastewater systems for 913,000 people in rural areas through the Solid Waste Management Grants Program and the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program.

THE FUTURE UNFOLDS

The recent USDA aims to support rural America’s growth and technological parity with urbanized regions. With high-speed internet accessibility exponentially increased and improved infrastructure on the horizon, the rural communities of America stand at the cusp of unprecedented development and connectivity. A full list of projects from the announcement is available online.

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