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USDA Program Improving Rural Broadband

Podcast / Newsline December 20, 2018

A Department of Agriculture program will improve broadband connections in rural America. Micheal Clements has more.

Clements: An investment by USDA will expand rural broadband, essential to modern agriculture. RJ Karney, director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, says the program will help providers bring higher-speed broadband connections to the farm.

Karney: The ReConnect program is a new pilot program that the USDA just rolled out and the purpose of it is to build out and expand rural broadband to unserved and underserved areas that currently don’t meet a qualified true broadband speed necessary for business, healthcare, education, and also agricultural purposes.

Clements: Karney says rural broadband improvements will allow farmers to become more efficient and more productive.

Karney: Many of the latest yield-maximizing farming technologies require broadband connections. This includes data collections and also analysis both performed on the farm, but also back at the farm household. And, precision agricultural techniques, those are going to allow farmers to be more efficient, economical and environmentally friendly.

Clements: The program invests $600 million for improvements in rural broadband infrastructure.

Karney: Within that there are three sub-categories. There’s going to be a $200 million category for 100 percent grants, there’s going to be a $200 million category for a 50 percent grant/50 percent loan program and also a $200 million category for 100 percent loans. This will allow the entities that plan to build out broadband infrastructure to apply for different funding mechanisms.

Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.

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