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Broadband Opportunities for Rural America


Broadband Opportunities

Funding for Rural Broadband Services

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) established several broadband initiatives with $7.2 billion in funding. This includes $4.7 billion in funding for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in consultation with the FCC. The purposes of BTOP is to provide access to broadband in unserved areas, improve broadband access for both underserved areas and public safety agencies, and provide broadband education, training and support.

The Recovery Act also provided an additional $2.5 billion in funding for the Broadband Initiatives Program administered by the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the USDA. This program is designed to support the expansion of broadband service in rural areas through financing and grants to projects that provide access to high speed service and facilitate economic development in locations without sufficient access to such service.

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Assistance for Rural Telemedicine Services

The Rural Health Care Support mechanism provides support for telecommunications and Internet access, including satellite and broadband services, for certain rural health care facilities. The program is intended to ensure that rural health care providers pay no more for telecommunications in the provision of health care services than their urban counterparts. The program will pay for 25% of the cost of Internet access, and up to $180 a month in toll charge credits if toll-free service to an Internet service provider isn’t available.

Either public or non-profit rural health care providers are eligible to receive support under the program. Providers can include teaching hospitals or medical schools, community health centers, local health departments or agencies, community mental health centers, non-for-profit hospitals and rural health clinics.

The program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company, or USAC.

Support for Broadband Services in Schools and Libraries

The FCC is working to bring every school in America into the information age. The Schools and Libraries Universal Service program, commonly known as the “E-Rate” program, was established as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to provide affordable telecommunications services for all eligible schools and libraries, especially those in rural and economically disadvantaged areas.

The level of discount is based on a school's or library's level of economic disadvantage and its location. Facilities in rural areas higher discounts in certain instances than their urban counterparts. The program is administered by the Schools and Libraries Division of USAC under the direction of the FCC.

Rural Development Broadband Loan Program

The USDA Rural Development Broadband Program provides loans and loan guarantees to fund the cost of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment for the provision of broadband service in eligible rural communities. Regulation 7 CFR Part 1738 prescribes the types of loans available, facilities financed, and eligible applicants, as well as minimum credit support requirements to be considered for a loan.

Distance Learning and Telemedicine Loan and Combination Loan-Grant Programs

The Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Program offers three funding opportunities for applicants to consider. DLT grants are made annually on a competitive basis, are highly focused into the neediest and most rural areas, and limit eligible purposes to the most cost-effective elements in a distance-learning and telemedicine network - the application interface devices. Complementing the grant program, the DLT Loan and Combination Loan-Grant Programs offer applicants larger possible dollar amounts, more comprehensive eligible purposes, and more certain application results. These programs are non-competitive, making awards on a first come, first served basis. They can fund everything a DLT grant can fund, plus telecommunications infrastructure, buildings, vehicles, and certain operating expenses.

Community Connect Grant Program

The Community-Oriented Connectivity Broadband Grant Program is designed to provide financial assistance in the form of grants to eligible applicants that will provide currently un-served areas, on a "community-oriented connectivity" basis, with broadband transmission service that fosters economic growth and delivers enhanced education, health care, and public safety services.

Public Television Digital Transition Grant Program

These grants assist Public Television Stations serving substantial rural populations in transitioning to digital broadcast television transmission, as mandated by the Federal Communications Commission. Grant funds may be used to acquire and install facilities and software necessary for the transition. Grant funds may also be used for associated engineering and environmental studies.

Weather Radio Grant Program

Rural Development Weather Radio Transmitter Grant Program provides grant funds to finance the installation of new transmitters to extend the coverage of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Weather Radio system (NOAA Weather Radio) in rural America. The President of the United States and the United States Congress made $5 million (later reduced to $4,989,000) in grant funds available to facilitate the expansion of NOAA Weather Radio system coverage into rural areas that are not covered or are poorly covered at this time. This program provides grant funds for use in rural areas and communities of 50,000 or less inhabitants. Limited grant funds are still available; applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis until the appropriation is used in its entirety.

Current Funding

USDA Available Funding

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