USDA Makes Rule Changes to Better Target Community Connect Grants

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced new rules to better target Community Connect broadband grants to areas where they're needed most. Vilsack says the rules give communities better access to the benefits broadband service provides. The Community Connect Grant program serves rural communities where broadband service is least likely to be available - but can make a tremendous difference in the quality of life for citizens. According to USDA - the changes will simplify the application process by requiring a single project summary and map; allow grant applications to use a USDA web-based mapping tool to define their proposed service area; give grant applications more flexibility on the types of resources that can be used to meet the 15-percent matching fund requirement; and allow USDA to consider giving funding priority to projects in persistent poverty counties, communities experiencing population declines and the most rural areas.

The Community Connect program has funded 229 projects with USDA investments of 122-million dollars since its inception. In 2012 - USDA assistance led to improved broadband service nationwide for nearly 65-thousand rural households, businesses and community institutions. USDA's Rural Utilities Service plans to publish information on Community Connect funding opportunities - including application deadlines and the amount of assistance available - in the Federal Register soon.

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