Biden Administration Announces $667 Million for High-Speed Internet in Rural Areas

By: LSN Partners on August 22, 2023

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced nearly $700 million in grants and loans to connect thousands of rural residents, farmers, and business owners in 22 states and the Marshall Islands to reliable, affordable high-speed internet through the ReConnect Program, funded by the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act (IIJA). 

The ReConnect Program is designed to fund the most difficult high-speed internet projects in rural, remote, and unserved communities. This announcement is part of the fourth funding round of the ReConnect Program.

Applicants to ReConnect Program funding must serve a rural area that lacks access to service at speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mbps upload. Applicants must also commit to building facilities capable of providing high-speed internet service with speeds of 100 Mbps (download and upload) to every location in the proposed service area. Additionally, all awardees must apply to participate in the IIJA’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The ACP offers a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service to qualifying low-income households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal Lands.

The announced investment includes $667 million in USDA investments in the following states: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the Marshall Islands.

Most of these investments are allocated to Rural Partners Network (RPN) communities. RPN works with hundreds of federal, state, and local partners to address specific needs in rural communities that have long struggled to access government programs and funding.

Examples of projects in this announcement include:

● North Carolina – Star Telephone Membership Corporation receives a $24.9 million grant to benefit 2,674 people, 84 businesses, 117 farms, and four educational facilities in Bladen, Columbus, and Sampson counties. Bladen and Columbus are part of an RPN community.

● Oregon – Pioneer Telephone Cooperative receives a $24.9 million grant to benefit 2,239 people, 50 businesses, 205 farms, and one educational facility in Lincoln, Lane, and Benton counties.

● New Mexico – SWC Telesolutions Inc. receives a $9.2 million grant to benefit 4,962 people, 106 businesses, 11 farms, and 17 educational facilities in Doña Ana and Sierra counties. Doña Ana County is part of an RPN community.

full list of projects from last week’s announcement is available online.