The USDA is offering up to $600 million in loans and grants to build broadband infrastructure in Rural America and on Friday U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) urged rural Alabama entities to apply for the money.
Senator Jones released a statement encouraging eligible rural Alabama entities to apply for the up to $600 million in loans and grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The money is being provided by Congress to help expand the rural broadband infrastructure. Telecommunication companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers, and municipalities may apply for funding through USDA’s new ReConnect Program to connect rural areas that currently have insufficient broadband service. This broadband pilot program is covered through funds secured in the fiscal year 2018 budget as designated by Congress. USDA Rural Development is the primary agency delivering the program, with assistance from other federal partners.
“Today, more than ever, high-speed internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity,” said Senator Jones. “Students rely on connectivity for their education, hospitals and health care providers use telehealth capabilities to reach rural communities, and small businesses need the internet to thrive. It provides economic opportunity, strengthens our communities and connects our workforce throughout Alabama and the nation. This USDA funding is a great opportunity to close the broadband gaps that exist in Alabama and I encourage any eligible entity in the state to apply.”
The USDA will make available approximately $200 million for grants (applications due to USDA by April 29, 2019), as well as $200 million for loan and grant combinations (applications due May 29, 2019), and $200 million for low-interest loans (applications due by June 28, 2019).
To help customers with the application process, USDA is holding a series of online webinars and regional in-person workshops. The full list of upcoming public webinars and workshops can be found at the ReConnect Program’s resource portal:
The Farm Bill, which passed last week, included two broadband provisions sponsored by Senator Jones that provided an additional $400 million in federal funding for broadband service in rural communities across America.
The lack of a broadband infrastructure in most Alabama counties has become a major concern of elected leaders and economic development professionals.
Governor Kay Ivey (R), Senator Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), and Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) have also worked on increasing rural broadband access in the last year.
Sen. Doug Jones was elected to the U.S. Senate in a special election last year.