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community connect

Co-ops: By the Community, For the Community

Tina Borg knows all too well the challenges of limited internet access.

At home, her family in Barnes County, N.D., often relied on a cell phone hotspot. However, their ability to access information was frequently constrained by their phone plan’s data limits. Tina routinely had to drive to the next town to access the internet, or she had to rely upon whatever books happened to be available for the four children that she home schools.

October is National Co-Op Month

Happy National Co-Op Month! It’s reason to celebrate because in America there are more than 40,000 cooperatives of all types, supporting jobs that provide more than $25 billion in wages. According to a study by the University of Wisconsin (PDF, 2.7 MB), funded in part by USDA, cooperatives have an estimated 350 million members. (Many people belong to more than one cooperative.)

World Accessibility in Rural America

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.

Connecting Communities: Broadband for Rural America Benefits Us All

Today, Secretary Vilsack announced over $190 million of investment in broadband projects through USDA's Community Connect program, the Public Television Digital Transition Grant, and the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program.

Time and time again, we hear stories about the significant impact USDA’s investments have in the lives of hard working Americans, and we know that an investment in our rural communities is an investment in America.

A USDA Broadband Grant Connects a Bering Sea Island to the World

The significance of a recently awarded USDA Community Connect Broadband grant to the predominantly Native town of Saint Paul, Alaska, can’t really be appreciated until you know about this isolated community on one of the Pribilof Islands in the middle of the Bering Sea.  It is not served by the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system and the major shipping routes are 250 miles to the south.  The island is too far from the closest urban centers (more than 700 miles) to reach by light aircraft.  No commercial jet service is available.   Most supplies arrive by charter or flying service while freight arrives by barge, seasonally when the Bering Sea is ice-free.  Winter travel in the Bering Sea can be extreme with violent seas and high winds.  Air travel throughout the remaining months is often disrupted by heavy fog and ice fog.  To say this is a remote area is an understatement.

The Community Connect project is desperately needed on Saint Paul Island.  Available 2010 Census statistics show the community in distress.  In 1990 the population was 763; by 2010 it was 479.  This is at a time when Alaska’s less remote non-Native rural population is growing.  With few available natural resources on this treeless island, Internet Connectivity is the core foundation for economic and demographic turn around.

Teaming Up to Support Rural Community Colleges

Cross posted from the Department of Education blog:

It’s no secret that community colleges are leading the way to achieving the President’s goal for the United States to once again have the highest college attainment rate in the world by 2020. Community colleges are hubs for career-training, re-training, adult education and for recent high school graduates seeking a pathway into the careers of their choice.

A USDA Community Connect Grant Brings Brownington, Missouri to the Digital Age

A small rural community half way between Kansas City and Springfield is the Village of Brownington, possibly the best kept secret of Henry County.  Nestled comfortably along the Harry S. Truman Lake, the Village consists of 119 residents with 68 housing units covering a land area of only 0.15 sq. miles.  Their numbers may be small, but their courage and determination to revive their community is remarkable.

To the delight of the residents, the Village was recently awarded a grant for access to broadband service and the construction of a Community Center.  The broadband service is a result of a program administered by USDA Rural Development.  The program known as “Community Connect” provides grants to eligible applicants to establish broadband service in rural communities that are not currently served.

USDA-Ready to Assist America’s Rural Communities With State-of-the-Art Broadband Services

During his State of the Union address earlier this week, President Obama outlined a vision for the future that calls on America to “Out innovate, out educate, and out build the rest of the world.”  A crucial contributor to this effort, as the President recognized, is rural broadband.  USDA is funding the deployment of broadband systems across the country, and we want to help your community as well.