Rural broadband funding available

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for loans to provide and expand broadband service in rural areas.

USDA plans to make at least $60 million in loans available through today’s announcement. Loans can range from $100,000 to $20 million. They will be provided through USDA Rural Development’s Telecommunications Program.

This program funds infrastructure and equipment to deliver broadband, distance learning and telemedicine services in rural areas.

Projects receiving funding must offer broadband service at a minimum bandwidth of 25 megabits downstream and three megabits upstream.

Expanding broadband service is a key component of the President’s plans to improve rural infrastructure. Last month, Secretary Perdue announced $34.6 million in loans that will add nearly 1,000 miles of fiber for broadband service in rural parts of Illinois, Iowa and Texas.

The deadline for applications is Sept. 30. For details on how to apply, see page 34473 of the July 25 Federal Register.

USDA is offering pre-application assistance to review draft applications, provide detailed comments, and identify whether the draft application meets eligibility requirements for funding. For assistance, please contact the General Field Representative in the state where the proposed broadband project is to be located. Application assistance will be available on a first-come, first-served basis through Sept. 22.