More grants and loans have been approved by the USDA for infrastructure to support advanced communications in rural areas, the agency announced Wednesday.
About $190.5 million in grants and loans has been set aside through the Community Connect Grant program, the Public Television Digital Transition Grant program and the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan program to make the upgrades.
Community Connect grants establish broadband service in rural areas to boost economic growth and offer educational, health care, social and public safety benefits. Public television grants help public television stations serving rural areas acquire the equipment they need to transition from analog to digital broadcasts. Telecommunications infrastructure loans help maintain, upgrade or expand rural telecommunications networks.
"Modern telecommunications and broadband access is now as essential to the businesses and residents of rural America as electricity was in the 1930s," Vilsack said. "USDA is committed to ensuring that rural Americans have robust broadband and telecommunications systems."
The investments will provide broadband in areas that lack it, help rural-serving public television stations begin using digital broadcasts, and support other telecommunications infrastructure improvements, Vilsack said.
The funding announced Wednesday will go to 25 projects in 19 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Funding is contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of their grant or loan agreements, USDA notes.
A sampling of the projects includes a loan in Arkansas for voice, broadband and internet TV service; a $2.5 million Community Connect grant to provide high-speed broadband in the Powhatan, La., area; and a $750,000 USDA grant will replace analog mobile production and satellite equipment for public television broadcasters serving the U.S. Virgin Islands.