The USDA Awards Over $100 Million in Grants for High-Speed Internet Connectivity
Why Does the Federal Government Give Money for Internet Connectivity?
The USDA has a large grant program that is aimed at connecting rural areas that are not currently served by high-speed internet. Most broadband companies do not want to invest heavily in these areas because the cost of connecting these customers far exceeds the profits that the companies can make on serving these areas. Rural connectivity will usually involve heavy investment, but the population that is serviced is not enough for the company to not only recoup their investment but also to make a reasonable profit from it. As a result, the government needs to invest the money to connect these communities because there is little incentive for private companies to perform this task.
To give an idea of how expensive it is to connect rural communities, the first wave of this grant funding will help serve just under 22,000 households. These areas are often isolated and located far from existing infrastructure. This increases the costs that companies have to invest in connectivity. For example, USDA awarded $6 million in grants to connect rural counties in Oregon and this large grant will connect just over 400 homes.
Who Benefits from These Grants?
The grant program not only helps residential homes but also assists hospitals and other institutions that need connectivity. For example, in the last round of grants, there were awards to several hospitals to install the necessary infrastructure to achieve full connectivity. Some of the benefits include improving medical care by allowing for better connectedness. For example, if a patient is hospitalized in rural areas, doctors in other hospitals can be accessed through videoconferencing and records sharing.
These grants were made pursuant to a USDA program that invests hundreds of millions of dollars in rural broadband access. The program is called the Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program, and it was increased in 2018 when Congress appropriated approximately more money for rural broadband development.
The intention of the program is to reduce the number of homes that do not have a reliable internet connection. USDA estimates that 24 million homes lack an affordable and reliable high-speed internet connection. Four in five of these homes are located in rural areas. Previously, the USDA spent about $700 million annually for these grants and these loans. After the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Congress gave USDA an additional $600 million to spend for these purposes. Now, USDA is in the process of making additional investments with this money.
The Benefits to the Economy of this Grant Program
While, on the surface of things, it seems that spending all of this money to connect so few rural homes in the country is not a wise use of money, the benefits to the American economy are multifold. Connecting rural areas increases the productivity of agriculture by improving the technological options that are available. It is estimated that increasing enhancing digital agriculture technologies can add $47 billion to the U.S. economy.
As mentioned above, rural broadband connectivity can also reduce rural health care costs by allowing for greater connectedness to other hospitals. Telemedicine can improve healthcare in areas that are underserved by doctors.
While individual households cannot apply for government grants to improve connectivity. companies and non-profits are able to apply for these grants. This can include hospitals and educational institutions. The government is increasing the amount of money that is available so funding is easier to get than it was in the past provided that the program requirements are met. One of the requirements of federal funding is that the entity that applies for the grant must have matching funds for 15% of the federal grant although this can be used on operating costs. For the loans program, applicants are encouraged to partner with non-profits or state and other governmental institutions.
Other Featured Posts
New Orleans Distributes Grants to Bars, Clubs in 2021
The entertainment, restaurant and hospitality industries were hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and its related closures. Several rounds of federal funding have been distributed to states, and now states are distributing ...READ MORE
Small Businesses for the Greater Spokane Region Can Apply for New Grants
Some states like Texas, Florida, Georgia, and California may have opened too fast which has resulted in another round of business closures. Your business may need another round of funding. Congress ext...READ MORE
Illinois Distributes Marijuana-funded Grants to Community Organizations
In many states, recreational cannabis is legal. The state collects taxes on the sales of recreational cannabis. Some states, such as Illinois, are using those tax dollars to help with the war on illegal ...READ MORE
Creative Artists to Receive Grants in Austin
Creative Artists to Receive Grants in Austin Since the Covid-19 pandemic swept the entire globe earlier this year, the American government, at both the state and federal levels, has been busy paying out a lot of money to a variet...READ MORE