USDA Grants Available to Expand Broadband Access

USDA Grants Available to Expand Broadband Access

In an effort to extend broadband services to rural farm areas, USDA is offering grants ranging from $100,000 to $3 million, dubbed the Community Connect Grant Program, run by USDA Rural Development.

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Communities that currently receive less than 10 megabits per second (mbps) downstream and 1 mbps upstream are targeted by the program. These communities would be eligible for broadband that at a minimum meets Federal Communcations Commission (FCC) bar for rate-of-data: 25 mbps downstream and 3 mbps upstream.

For this particular grant, communities whose broadband services are below the FCC minimum, but above 10mbps/1mbps, are not eligible to receive grant money.

A slight majority of the U.S. (53%) does not have broadband services that meet the FCC standards, according to Ars Technica. Those areas just happen to be where many farms are located, creating a barrier for growers who want to use precision tools that tie into the internet.

If you would like to see your area get improved broadband, for-profit corporations can apply, although you may want to reach out to your state and local governments, nonprofits like your vegetable or fruit assocation, or federally-recognized tribes.

There are some caveats you should be aware of, however:

  • Buildings constructed with grant funds must be located on the property owned by the awardee.
  • Leasing expenses will be covered only through the advance-of-funds period included in the award documents.
  • Grantees must have legal authority to provide, construct, operate, and maintain the proposed facilities or services.
  • Partnerships with other federal, state, local, private, and nonprofit entities are encouraged.
  • For additional detail see Code of Federal Regulations 7 CFR, Part 1739

To Learn more, Sign Up for Webinar

USDA has two webinars on the Community Connect Grant Program scheduled, one on April 5th, from 1 pm to 2 pm Eastern, and on April 10th, from 1 pm to 2 pm Eastern.