Broadband connection is no longer a luxury but a necessity to access jobs, education, and healthcare — and that need is true no matter where you live. Rural areas that are often underserved by telecommunications companies providing internet services have been getting more attention in recent years as the need for internet climbed even before the pandemic made it indispensable.

In these typically farming communities, high speed internet is one way to reduce population decline and bolster the economy. With the ability to connect to jobs that may be states away or run a business better, young people are more likely to live in and raise their families in their hometowns or other rural areas. Children have easier access to their schoolwork. And of course, farmers can input their data, watch markets, follow news and education, and do so much more when they have internet access.

One effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address the shortfall of rural internet access is the ReConnect Program, and this month, the department announced $714 million in funding to be awarded in the fourth round of the program. The figure includes $421 million in grants and $293 million in loans, said Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Corporations, cooperatives, and local governments were eligible to apply for funding if they would be able to supply broadband service at a certain speed to a rural area where at least half of the households lacked sufficient internet access. This round of funding is being awarded to 33 projects in 19 states: Alaska, Arkansas, Missouri, Arizona, California, Georgia, Idaho, Oregon, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington.

In addition to thousands of people and businesses outlined in the descriptions of the successful projects, the 33 awards will benefit approximately 4,705 farms.

Each of the awarded programs is required to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides funding that allows companies to cut household electricity bills by roughly $30 per month. After environmental reviews are complete, the goal is to get these projects established and running as soon as possible, said the administration.

As for the entire program so far, Vilsack said, “This brings us to a total of 142 projects through the ReConnect Program helping 314,000 residents have access to high-speed broadband.”

To comment, email your remarks to
(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2023
June 26, 2023

Subscribe to Hoard's Dairyman Intel by clicking the button below