Monday, April 18, 2016

USDA Seeks Applications for Community Connect Broadband Grants



WASHINGTON, April 18, 2016 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA is soliciting applications for grants to establish broadband in unserved rural communities.

“Broadband is instrumental in expanding economic and social services and creating jobs,” Vilsack said. “USDA helps ensure that rural residents have access to broadband to run businesses, get the most from their education and benefit from the infinite services that fast, reliable broadband provides.”

USDA plans to award up to $11.7 million in grants through the Community Connect Grant Program. The grants fund broadband infrastructure to help foster economic growth by delivering connectivity to the global marketplace. The grants also fund broadband for community centers and public institutions.

The minimum grant is $100,000 for FY 2016. The maximum award is $3 million. USDA announced new rules in 2014 to better target Community Connect grants to areas where they are needed the most. To view the rules, go to: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-05-03/pdf/2013-10502.pdf.

Prior Community Connect grants cannot be renewed. However, existing Community Connect awardees may submit applications for new projects, which USDA will evaluate as new applications

In 2009, the Wichita Online telecommunications company in Cooperton, Okla., received a Community Connect grant to build a community center with computers. The center serves as an Internet library for local residents and is used by several government agencies. The sheriff’s office and volunteer fire department coordinate their public safety, fire protection and other emergency services from the center. During harvest season, many farmworkers use the computers to communicate with their family members far away. Cooperton is a farming and ranching community between the Slick Hills and Wichita Mountains in Southwest Oklahoma.

USDA has invested $160 million in more than 240 projects to bring broadband to unserved rural communities since the Community Connect Program was created in 2003.

For more information on how to apply for grants, please visit: http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/community-connect-grants.

Since 2009, USDA Rural Development has invested $11 billion to start or expand 103,000 rural businesses; helped 1.1 million rural residents buy homes; funded nearly 7,000 community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care facilities; financed 180,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines; and helped bring high-speed Internet access to nearly 6 million rural residents and businesses.