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USDA invites grant applications to connect rural communities to broadband service

The USDA Rural Utilities Service (RUS) has announced it is accepting applications for grants to provide broadband access in rural communities currently without broadband service. Funding is provided through the Community Connect Grant program. Grants are available to communities in the most rural, economically challenged areas where loans would not be sustainable. Funds may be used to construct, acquire or lease facilities to deploy broadband to residents, businesses and essential community facilities such as police and fire stations, libraries, schools, and health care clinics.

“Because the applicant must be able to own the broadband network and provide the broadband services, RUS encourages schools and libraries to find a broadband provider to submit the application,” said Larra Clark, director, ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) Program on Networks.

“The Community Connect program can be meaningful to rural libraries because program applicants must provide broadband service free of charge for two years to libraries and other community facilities.”

Grants range from $50,000 to $1.5 million, and the application deadline is May 3. Each project requires matching contributions (15 percent), must serve a rural area where broadband service does not exist, and must offer basic service to all premises within the proposed service area. Complete grant information, including FAQs and an application guide, are available on the Community Connect Grant Program Web page.

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