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Reliable and affordable high-speed internet e-Connectivity, or electronic connectivity, is fundamental for economic activity throughout the US. Access to high-speed internet is vital for a diverse set of industries, including agricultural production, manufacturing, mining, and forestry and acts as a catalyst for rural prosperity by enabling efficient, modern communications between rural American households, schools, and healthcare centers as well as markets and customers around the world.

Unfortunately, 22.3 percent of Americans in rural areas and 27.7 percent of Americans in Tribal lands lack coverage from fixed terrestrial 25/3 Mbps broadband, as compared to only 1.5 percent of Americans in urban areas, according to a recent report by the Federal Communications Commission.

USDA is Investing in Rural Broadband

USDA has been investing in rural telecommunications infrastructure for decades. Hundreds of millions of dollars are annually available in the RUS programs both by loans and grants all to support modern broadband e-Connectivity in rural communities.

In 2018, USDA introduced the ReConnect Program, which has invested over $1 billion to date to expand high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved rural areas and tribal lands.

This new funding option was created by the United States Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which authorized $600 million for an ambitious initiative to rebuild America’s infrastructure. In FY 2019, Congress added $500 million to the Program, and in FY 2020 and FY 2021, Congress appropriated an additional $555 million and $635 million, respectively. The ReConnect Program policies and procedures were codified in the April 2021 ReConnect Regulation.

See current programs

What is e-Connectivity

  • Rural e-connectivity will once again put the U.S. at the top of the world's productivity by fostering economic development, job growth, rural entrepreneurship, and innovative technologies. This will require that every part of the farm — not just the farmhouse – will be connected to the worldwide web.
  • American farms need reliable, real-time internet connectivity to oversee operations in the fields, manage finances, and respond to international market conditions. e-Connectivity can help farmers predict needed production inputs, increase yields, and access more customers worldwide.
  • Rural communities need access to telemedicine opportunities and tools to fight the opioid epidemic.

    Preventing uncontrolled access to erroneously-prescribed medications requires pharmacies to be connected to real-time controlled substances (opioid) registries, and rural healthcare providers demand high-speed internet for distance learning and training on how to identify and treat addiction.

    Moreover, remote access to addiction treatment counseling requires reliable e-Connectivity for telehealth visits.
  • Rural students should have the same tools for “digital homework” and self-paced learning pursuits that urban kids enjoy. Including being able to do their homework at home, rather than having to drive miles and miles to a Wi-Fi hotspot in town. Likewise, students should be able to quickly and easily download the same educational videos as urban and suburban students. Adult learners require modern connectivity to engage in university, community college, and trade and technical school degree and professional certification programs.
  • The global digital marketplace is ripe for e-commerce products and services from rural businesses. Modern e-Connectivity for rural America holds great promise for expansion of rural entrepreneurship, which is only possible from ubiquitous broadband e-Connectivity.

USDA embarked on a groundbreaking analysis about the potential benefits of rural broadband infrastructure and emerging on-farm technology for modernizing the United States’ agriculture industry and all who depend on its success.

We found that enhancing digital agriculture technologies already in use today - and increasing producers’ usage to full-scale - could create at least $47 billion each year in additional gross benefit for the U.S. economy. Rural broadband e-connectivity is the driver of more than one-third of that potential value, equal to $18 billion of annual economic improvements for our nation.

Read the report (PDF, 2.5 MB) released in April 2019 that describes how Next Generation Precision Agriculture technologies can be deployed together with high-capacity, reliable Internet services to America’s farms and ranches, including:

  1. How e-connectivity creates value through digital transformation
  2. The potential impact of Internet-connected agricultural technologies to the U.S. economy
  3. What the agriculture ecosystem needs to unlock this value
  4. Proposed strategies to make this potential a reality

FCC and USDA Working Together for Precision Agriculture

In June 2019, the Federal Communications Commission announced the formation of a new task force dedicated to advising the Commission on policies aimed at delivering connectivity so that American agriculture producers can use and benefit from precision agriculture. The new federal advisory committee, formally called the Task Force for Reviewing the Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture in the United States, works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide the FCC with outside, expert advice on the needs and impact of telecommunications policy on the deployment of agricultural technology. The USDA serves as an ex officio non-voting member and acts as a consultant and resource to the FCC as they manage this important mission for rural America.

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e-Connectivity Toolkit

An easy-to-use guide to USDA resources such as grants, loans, partnerships and in-person consultations, that support e-Connectivity and aim to help you find the opportunity that best fulfills their need.

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Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program

This innovative program furnishes loans and grants to provide funds for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas.

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American Broadband Initiative Progress Report

This report outlines the roadmap for how the Federal Government is working to increase broadband access and actions that Agencies are taking to increase private-sector investment in broadband.

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Rural Broadband e-Connectivity