USDA announces $502M for high-speed internet in rural communities, including Freeborn County – Albert Lea Tribune

US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced Thursday that the department is making $502 million in loans and grants to bring high-speed Internet access to rural residents and businesses in 20 states.

The funding is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to invest in rural infrastructure and provide reliable, affordable, high-speed internet for all, according to a press release. The USDA is making the investments as part of the third round of funding for the ReConnect program. The department will make additional investments for rural high-speed internet in the coming months, including funding from Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, which envisages a historic $65 billion investment to expand affordable high-speed internet to all communities in the United States. The announcement includes a $25.11 million project through the Winnebago Cooperative Telephone Association to provide fiber to the home in Freeborn County. This network will connect 3,597 people, 80 businesses and 458 farms to high-speed Internet. Half of the scholarship is awarded as a loan and the other half as a grant.

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“President Biden’s commitment to high-speed internet in rural communities is fundamental to ensuring the nation’s economy continues to expand from the bottom up and middle,” Vilsack said. “High speed internet will improve the rural economy. It will help rural businesses to grow and access new markets. It will help rural residents access more and better health care and education opportunities. The USDA knows that rural America is America’s backbone, and prosperity here means prosperity for all.”

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The USDA presents 32 awards in Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. Many of the awards will help rural people and businesses in tribal areas and people in vulnerable communities.

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The USDA has so far announced $858 million in ReConnect’s third round of funding and plans to make additional investment announcements under the program in the coming weeks. Thursday’s announcement follows the department’s July 28 announcement that it has invested $356 million through the ReConnect program to help very rural residents and businesses in 11 states gain access to high-speed Internet.

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