USDA awards $502 million from ReConnect to expand rural broadband in underserved areas

USDA is investing more than $500 million to expand access to high-speed rural broadband in 20 states.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says the funds will help improve existing projects for residents and businesses in underserved areas including tribal lands, which highlight the administration’s efforts to increase the capacity and capability of the fiber systems currently being upgraded. “So that the download and upload speeds are significantly greater and there’s capacity to increase them even more.”

The $502 million is being made available through the third round of the ReConnect Program for projects in Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.

Vilsack says the grants and loans go directly to communities and businesses. “A condition of getting round three funding is that the network is built with a capacity to expand to 100/100 and I think you’re going to continue to see that.”

As part of the announcement: the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa in Michigan is receiving $25 million to connect more than 1,200 people and 26 businesses to high-speed internet in Chippewa and Mackinac counties. New Vision Communications LLC in Barton County, Missouri is receiving more than $12 million to connect nearly 5,000 people, 300 businesses, nine farms and 15 public schools.

USDA has announced $858 million in the third round of ReConnect funding and plans to make more announcement under the program soon.

Round 4 applications for ReConnect is open through November 2.

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