USDA to prioritize rural broadband funding
The United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA-RD) has announced a plan to spur the development of rural broadband networks that could contribute to a future smart grid.
The plan would allow USDA to give funding priority to broadband projects in areas of greatest need. The changes would apply to projects funded through the Community Connect Broadband grant program, which is administered by USDA-RD's Rural Utilities Service.
"Fast, reliable, affordable broadband is essential for rural communities," said USDA-RD Alaska State Director Jim Nordlund. "It helps businesses remain competitive in the national and global marketplace, and it helps residents have access to the same goods and services as people in metropolitan areas."
In addition to targeting resources to the most unserved rural communities, the proposed changes would streamline the grant application process. Applicants would be able to use matching funds to cover operating costs of broadband projects. They would also be able to use grant funds for an entire geographic area instead of for a single community.