Ending the Internet’s Digital Divide
The USDA says $1.15 billion in grants and loans for its ReConnect Program will soon be available mostly for the “less populated” regions of the US with the slowest internet speeds. That includes tribal lands and socially vulnerable communities.
Vilsack told reporters that while more than a billion dollars is a lot…
VILSACK: “ At the end of the day we really do need a national commitment of significant size to make a fundamental difference in rural places. It should not be a situation of whatever your zipcode is that you have service or don’t have service.”
He says it will take tens of billions to connect everyone. Another wave of broadband funding is included in the bipartisan infrastructure and budget bills being negotiated in Congress. Those include proposals for $65 billion more for broadband.
Vilsack also told reporters that the USDA will make a $50 million investment in more than 100 rural distance learning and telehealth projects across 37 states and Puerto Rico. While many communities were dialed in for remote work and school during the pandemic, some workers, patients, and students in rural areas did not have access to those technologies.
Politico reports that farmworker advocates also saw gaps among workers who lacked internet access to schedule Covid-19 vaccine appointments — prompting some groups to set up phone lines themselves.