Rural broadband has been a top priority of state and federal officials. Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch.
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Monday announced it will send $714 million to help rural areas in Minnesota and 18 states connect to the internet.
“The president honestly believes that in order to have the fullest opportunity available to bring manufacturing back, to bring precision agriculture, to reconnect young people to economic opportunity in rural places, the expansion of broadband access is essential,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on a call with reporters.
“And the announcement today is an additional step being taken by this administration to make that a reality in all parts of the country, regardless of how remote and rural they may be,” added Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa.
Congress approved the funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program in the bipartisan infrastructure law that members of both political parties approved last year.
The Agriculture Department’s funding is a fraction of the $65 billion that U.S. lawmakers authorized for programs that aim to connect all Americans to the internet.
The additional funding is being distributed by the Federal Communications Commission and the Commerce Department, each of which have rural broadband and internet connectivity programs of their own.
This tranche of funding from the USDA, Vilsack said, would go towards 33 different projects.
The funding includes:
- $7.9 million grant and a $7.9 million loan for Johnson Telephone Company;
- $6.8 million grant and a $6.8 million loan for MiEnergy Cooperative;
- $19 million grant for Meeker Cooperative Light & Power Association.
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