U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue unveiled a new webpage featuring information about the importance of rural e-connectivity, www.usda.gov/broadband, and the ways the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing to help deploy high-speed broadband infrastructure in rural America.
“Rural high-speed broadband e-connectivity is as important for economic development as rail, roads, bridges and airports – and as vital as the build-outs of rural telephone networks were decades ago,” Perdue said. “USDA is committed to being a strong partner with rural leaders in deploying this essential infrastructure.”
Reliable and affordable high-speed internet e-connectivity acts as a catalyst for rural prosperity by enabling efficient, modern communications between rural American households, farms, ranches, businesses, schools and health care centers. Yet, according to the Federal Communications Commission, 80% of the 24 million Americans who lack broadband access live in rural areas and on tribal lands.
USDA plays an important role in helping rural communities bridge this infrastructure gap through program investment, strategic partnerships and best practice implementation by investing in rural telecommunications infrastructure. This new website will provide direct access to information on the agency's decades-long programs that offer more than $700 million per year for modern broadband e-connectivity in rural communities. In the coming months, USDA said it will almost double these long-standing programs with an additional $600 million to expand rural broadband infrastructure in unserved rural areas and tribal lands.
This new funding option was created by Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 as an ambitious initiative to rebuild America’s infrastructure.
As the agency works to set up the new pilot program, USDA said it wants to hear the thoughts and needs of Americans living and doing business in rural communities. The new website includes a feedback form for the general public and interested stakeholders to provide input on the design and requirements of the new pilot program.