USDA Invests $97 Million in Broadband

USDA https://www.usda.gov is investing $97 million in 12 projects to provide or improve rural broadband service in eleven states. These states include Arizona, Iowa, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The agency is investing in rural broadband through the “Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program” and the “Community Connect Grant Program”.

For example, Osage Innovative Solutions, LLC in Tulsa Oklahoma is going to receive $2.7 million to construct a hybrid fiber-to-the premises and fixed wireless system in an unserved and economically depressed portion of the Osage Nation in Osage County. This project will give customers access to high quality telecommunications services to help improve economic, education, and healthcare opportunities.

In April 2017, the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity was established to identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities.

The Task Force published the “Report to the President of the U.S. From the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity” which contains the section “Call to Action #1: Achieving e-Connectivity for Rural America.”

This section attributes the lack of complete e-connectivity in rural areas to several factors such as low population density, challenging geography, bureaucratic obstacles in building a network, lack of access to infrastructure, and burdensome regulatory reviews. The report points out, e-connectivity provides the opportunity to achieve a higher quality of life through the use of telemedicine, telehealth, and digital learning.

The Task Force also recommends doing an assessment of existing federal grants and subsidy programs devoted to or used for deploying e-connectivity. This assessment should include identification of duplicative and overlapping programs throughout the federal government. It is also important to do a data driven analysis of service levels, reliability, and affordability along with an analysis of total capital investment necessary for rural e-connectivity needs

Also, the Task Force recommends that free market policies, laws, and structures at federal, state, tribal, and local government levels are needed to create an environment that is conducive to investment, which should include public-private partnerships.

The report emphasizes that it is critical to act quickly since the need for rural e-connectivity grows every day. Rural America must move quickly towards next generation networks like 5G and emerging technologies. Prioritizing e-connectivity for rural America is key to generating prosperity, investment, and innovation.

Go to https://www.usda.gov/sites/default/files/documents/rural-prosperity-report.pdf for the “Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity”.

https://www.rd.gov/files/Telecom-CommunityConnectNewsReleaseCHARTAugust12018.pdf has information on the individual projects scheduled to receive funding.

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