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.