We’re celebrating the 80th anniversary of the creation of the Rural Electrification Administration this month. The REA was created because in 1935, rural areas had no electricity—no lights or power to transform their hard work and efforts into efficiency and productivity. With the creation of the REA, and the subsequent Congressional action through the Rural Electrification Act, REA was able to empower rural America, changing lives and livelihoods for the better.
It was through the REA, USDA helped rural Americans build the infrastructure that today has helped make the U.S. the world’s breadbasket. While our electric program continues to contribute to a #modernUSDA with increased efficiency and smart-grid technology, USDA is leading the way to close a digital divide that presents a formidable threat to rural economies if allowed to continue.
Our experience in serving rural America’s electricity needs has led to great success in bringing broadband to rural America – recently with the funds made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
If you want to see a prime example of how these investments are impacting our rural communities, take a quick visit to rural Southeast Oklahoma to hear the story of how broadband investment is creating a transformation that, to me, shows strong parallels to the REA investments from eighty years ago. It's long-term investment like this that will pay economic dividends for generations to come, and I'm proud that USDA is leading the charge.