WASHINGTON, August 21, 2023 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Monday that it will invest a further $667 million in grants and loans to connect thousands of rural addresses in 22 states and the Marshall Islands through the ReConnect Program, funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“Keeping the people of rural America connected with reliable, high-speed internet brings new and innovative ideas to the rest of our country and creates good-paying jobs along the way,” said Vilsack. “These investments will support economic growth and prosperity for generations to come.”
ReConnect investments are creating opportunities for people regardless of their zip code to have a connection for more, he said. Of the $667 million announced, $493 million will be through grants and $174 million through loans. It will fund 37 projects.
All told, the Joe Biden Administration has invested $3.1 billion in rural broadband through 179 ReConnect projects which will improve opportunities for over 430,000 Americans in rural America, said Vilsack. ReConnect still has $260 million left to be awarded under the IIJA which will be invested over the next several months, he said.
The minimum requirement for this program is 100 Mbps symmetrical, said White House officials. This will ensure that networks are scalable for increased demand in the future and to spur investment in next generation farming equipment that need connection to high-speed internet and can increase farming efficiency, said Andy Berke, administrator of the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service at the announcement.
The investments are part of the fourth round of the ReConnect Program, a key part of the White House’s internet for all initiative to connect everyone in America to high-speed internet by 2030.
“We are delivering this funding because the internet is no longer a luxury,” said Mitchell Landrieu, senior advisor to the President at the announcement, saying the funding will change people’s lives. “High-speed internet can connect people to economic and educational opportunities miles away.”
The USDA announced last year the fourth round of funding for the ReConnect program after high interest in the third round of funding.
The announcement includes investments in 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.
In North Carolina, Star Telephone Membership Corporation is receiving a $24.9 million grant to benefit over 2,600 people, 84 businesses, 117 farms and four educational facilities across the state. In Oregon, Pioneer Telephone Cooperative is receiving a $24.9 million grant to benefit over 2,000 people, 50 businesses, 205 farms and one educational facility.