Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith introduced legislation—the Community Connect Grant Program Act—to establish the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program under law and make improvements to the grant program that makes funding available for broadband projects in tribal, low-income, and remote rural areas.
The USDA Community Connect program through the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) helps fund broadband deployment into rural communities. In addition to authorizing the program and targeting areas that lack access across the nation, Sen. Smith’s bill would increase internet speed service under the program because she hears time and time again that this is a real concern for Minnesotans.
“Broadband is the infrastructure of the 21st Century—it isn’t just nice, it’s necessary if we’re going to build an economy that works for everyone,” said Sen. Smith. “It is absolutely necessary whether you’re a student working on homework, a business owner selling products, a farmer using modern equipment, or a person who is trying to access health care. My bill is a step forward and one of the many things we have to do in order to connect more Minnesotans and people across the nation with affordable, reliable internet service.”
The Community Connect Grant Program Act would:
· Provide grants to construct, acquire, or lease facilities—including spectrum, land, or buildings—to deploy broadband service
·Modernize minimum speed service to coordinate with the Federal Communications Commission and keep pace with 21st Century needs.
·Provide essential community facilities—like fire stations and public schools—with service for up to two years.
·A portion of the grant funding may also be used to improve, expand, construct, or acquire a community center within the proposed service area to provide community access.
·Avoid duplicating deployment efforts by not building over existing broadband networks, responsibly investing federal funding and taxpayer money.
·Authorize funding for Community Connect grants at $50 million per fiscal year.
You can learn more about the Community Grant Program Act here.