Broadband projects nationwide get $759 million in USDA funds

In the biggest USDA broadband announcement of the year, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Thursday that 49 projects will receive $759 million to bring high-speed internet access to rural communities from North Carolina to California. With the new funding, the USDA has awarded $1.6 billion through the third round of ReConnect grants and loans this year.

White House starts ‘rural infrastructure tour’ loaded with dollar signs

President Biden launched a "rural infrastructure tour" on Monday to deliver billions of dollars in funding for rural America with senior officials visiting 30 communities in April. "These generational infrastructure investments will provide rural communities across America affordable high-speed internet, clean drinking water, reliable electricity, better roads and bridges and good-paying jobs," said the president.

USDA awards $167 million for broadband access

Projects in 12 states will receive a combined $167 million in USDA grants and loans to deploy broadband infrastructure in parts of rural America lacking sufficient access to high-speed internet service, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday.

Land stewardship would get a modest increase from Biden

President Biden’s months-delayed budget calls for small increases in land stewardship spending, around $300 million a year in the near term, by USDA to mitigate climate change. The administration also proposed a $65 million increase in funding for USDA’s ReConnect program to deploy broadband …

Expect a bipartisan broadband bill, says House Ag chairman

High-speed internet will be the centerpiece of rural economic development legislation drafted by the House Agriculture Committee, said chairman David Scott on Monday. Scott said he expects the committee will call a hearing on rural broadband in early April with a bipartisan bill to follow. …

FCC establishes $20 billion fund for rural broadband

In what it described as its biggest step yet to close the digital divide, the Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to establish a “rural digital opportunity fund” to provide up to $20 billion over 10 years for high-speed internet networks in rural America.

Digital divide persists, though 53 percent of farms conduct business on internet

More than half of U.S. farm operators say they do business over the internet, a 13-point increase in six years, as ownership of computers and access to the internet blossomed, according to USDA. Nonetheless, the Pew Research Center says rural Americans are much less likely than their city counterparts to have a smartphone or broadband service at home.

Will the digital divide delay access to USDA data?

Rural Americans are on the wrong side of the digital divide, with persistently lower rates of access to broadband service than their metropolitan counterparts. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue discussed the gap during an Axios interview this week, saying, “One of the things we’re really focusing on at USDA for rural development is broadband.”

Trump infrastructure outline tabs $50 billion for rural projects

As part of a mammoth package envisioned by the Trump administration, the nation's governors would be given $70 billion in block grants to help finance rural projects such as expansion of broadband service, said two senior White House officials. They said the block grant funding would be available on a more rapid basis than the rest of the $200 billion in federal funding that would be provided for improvements nationwide for all types of public works.

Trump taps Missouri co-op official to run USDA rural utilities agency

The president of a rural electric cooperative in central Missouri is President Trump’s choice to head the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service. The agency oversees programs that range from water and sewer facilities to electrical lines and telecommunications.

Trump wants $1.5 trillion for infrastructure; one-fourth for rural projects

After declaring “America is a nation of builders,” President Trump asked Congress to write a bill that would fund $1.5 trillion in “gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways across our land” — much of it financed by state, local, and private-sector money. A quarter of the federal funds would be earmarked for rural projects.

Universal rural broadband is a daunting challenge

The Trump administration’s rural prosperity report visualizes broadband as a lever for economic growth, but experts tell Harvest Public Media that “the devil is in the details — or lack thereof.”

FCC chair proposes $500 million for rural broadband

Declaring that closing the digital divide is the FCC’s top priority, chairman Ajit Pai proposed an agency order to put $500 million in funding toward high-speed internet in rural America, said ZDNet.

Rural task force report highlights Internet, GMOs, and a better H-2A visa

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue released a task force report, commissioned by President Trump on the day that Perdue took office, that makes 100 recommendations to improve rural prosperity, including universal access to high-speed internet, a smoother-functioning H-2A guestworker program and a federal initiative "to increase acceptance of biotech products and open and maintain markets for U.S. farmers abroad."

Coalition would use TV ‘white spaces’ to bring broadband to rural America

Software giant Microsoft is part of the Connect Americans Now coalition, which has “a plan to eliminate the digital divide by 2022” by persuading the FCC and other regulators to set aside low-band spectrum across the country to provide a broadband connection for everyone.

Rural areas may need partners for infrastructure improvements

The think tank Bipartisan Policy Center says public–private partnerships are a viable way for rural communities to pursue infrastructure projects but that this approach may require strategies such as bundling projects into a package that is attractive to investors. “While robust public funding is essential to meeting these urgent needs, rural areas, like their urban counterparts, should be empowered to tap into the financial and technical expertise of the private sector to help deliver infrastructure projects more quickly and at less cost,” says the center.

Worst broadband in the country? Try southwestern Colorado.

Thinly populated Saguache County in southwestern Colorado finished at the bottom of a FiveThirtyEight analysis of national broadband usage. According to the report, in Saguache County, “only 5.6 percent of adults were estimated to have broadband.”

‘We will rebuild rural America,’ says Trump, starting with broadband

In his first trip to Iowa since taking office, President Trump was introduced to high-technology, big-data dependent agriculture and said his $1 trillion infrastructure plan will expand broadband access in rural America. "We will rebuild rural America," said the president, with a prosperous farm sector as the lever for economic growth in rural communities.

Nearly 40 percent of rural Americans lack access to high-speed internet

Most Americans take access to fast internet connections for granted, but in rural America, nearly four of every 10 people cannot get broadband, a disadvantage when commerce and public services are often routed digitally.

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