The USDA will accept applications until April 15
By Diego Flammini
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is extending the application window for a program designed to bring broadband to rural communities.
Bette Brand, the USDA’s deputy under secretary for rural development, announced that the agency has pushed the application deadline for the ReConnect Pilot Program to April 15, 2020.
The original deadline was March 31, 2020.
The ReConnect program provides funding in the form of grants and loans to help cover the costs associated with broadband connections.
Congress provided US$600 million for the program in 2018 and announced another US$550 million for it in 2020.
To date, the USDA has invested more than US$600 million in broadband infrastructure across 31 states.
Moving the deadline date allows interested parties to make the right decisions in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The extension gives “rural businesses, co-operatives and communities extra time to apply for this critical assistance that will help bring high-speed broadband connectivity to rural communities,” Brand said in a March 30 statement.
Access to reliable broadband is important for rural communities.
Not only do farmers need connectivity to manage farm and equipment data, but during the coronavirus pandemic, students and teachers require broadband to complete assignments and lead classes as online studies have temporarily replaced in-school learning.
Traci Newcomer, a nursing professor at Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville, Wis., for example, had to teach a class from her car at one of the school’s parking lots because her broadband connection at home is inadequate.
“Today I put the computer on my passenger-side seat and turned sideways and conducted my class that way,” she told the Badger Project on March 30.
Farms.com has reached out to the Rural Broadband Association for comment on the application deadline extension and the state of rural broadband across America.