The US Department of Agriculture on Monday awarded $667 million in grants and loans through the ReConnect Program to 38 broadband projects across 22 states and the Marshall Islands with the goal of providing rural residents with high-speed internet access.
“Keeping the people of rural America connected with reliable, high-speed internet brings new and innovative ideas to the rest of our country and creates good-paying jobs along the way,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a release. “Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are connecting rural communities to a global marketplace. These investments will support economic growth and prosperity for generations to come.”
The ReConnect Program, funded by President Joe Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Law, aims to fund and and provide connectivity to the most remote, underserved communities, addressing a need that has grown to be more than just a nice-to-have service. The law supplies $65 billion towards ensuring affordable and reliable high-speed internet service.
The program is also part of Biden’s Internet for All Initiative’s goal to connect everyone in America to high-speed internet by 2030, as well as the Investing in America agenda to rebuild and strengthen the US economy with jobs, infrastructure repair and lower costs. Eligible areas must lack service speeds of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.
In 2021, the Pew Research Center reported 72% of rural residents had access to broadband internet connection at home. While that’s an increase from about 50% in 2019, rural residents are still less likely to have access to high-speed internet than their urban counterparts. Connecting that last segment of Americans has been tough because of the cost to build out that infrastructure and for larger ISPs, the questionable return on investment. That’s why government funding has been crucial to help close the gap.