Access to the world via internet and mobile phone services is at the fingertips of most Americans, but this is not the reality for residents of many rural communities across the Nation.
In October 2014, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $190.5 million in grants and loans to make broadband and other advanced communications infrastructure improvements in rural areas.
In December 2014, I visited with groups of people whose families and businesses will benefit from a $1,771,035 USDA Rural Development Community Connect Broadband Grant awarded to North Central Telephone Cooperative (NCTC) in Lafayette, Tennessee.
This rural area bordering the Tennessee/Kentucky state line has seen their share of businesses closing and families moving “closer to town.” Many of the longtime residents understand why their children and grandchildren feel isolated and have decided to move away, but they, along with community and business leaders, hope the improvements that NCTC is making with the help of Rural Development funds will turn the tide and draw businesses and people back into the area.
Upon completion, NCTC service area residents will have access to internet speeds ranging from 5 Megabits per second (Mbps) to a full 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps). This means businesses will be able to capitalize off of e-commerce business strategies and offer teleworking options to their employees; community members will have more efficient and reliable access to commercial and emergency services.
I was reminded by a young father that shared how much he enjoyed raising his family on the same road as his parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, and uncles while also describing the challenge of not being able to work at home because he did not have access to high-speed internet service, that building a stronger rural America is not only vital to our nation economically, but as an underpinning to strong families.
Breaking ground on this project felt more like USDA Rural Development and NCTC were breaking antiquated barriers that have prevented America’s rural businesses, services and families from accessing the world.
USDA Rural Development’s Community Connect Grant Program is designed for communities like Lafayette. These grants enable access to broadband technology that will sustain existing and attract new businesses to rural communities. Broadband makes the world accessible even in rural America.
If your rural community needs financial assistance to make broadband access a reality, USDA Rural Development is accepting applications* from state or town governments, cooperatives, incorporated organizations, Indian Tribes and Tribal Organizations for Community Connect Grants.
Together let’s break down the barriers and make the world accessible. For more information contact your local USDA Rural Development team.