Farm bill will impact access to broadband

The 2018 farm bill will raise the annual budget for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) budget for broadband loans, loan guarantees and grants to $350 million for fiscal years 2019 to 2023. The amended section also allows the funding to be used for grants as well as loans.

  • $50 million annually for Community Connect grants. The Community Connect program helps rural communities extend access where broadband service is least likely to be commercially available, but where it can make a tremendous difference in the quality of life for people and businesses. The projects funded by these grants help rural residents tap into the enormous potential of the internet for jobs, education, health care, public safety and community development.
  • $10 million annually for grants, loans and loan guarantees for middle mile infrastructure for rural America. Middle mile infrastructure is a telecommunication industry term that describes the network infrastructure that connects last mile (i.e., local) networks to other network service providers, major telecommunications carriers and the greater internet. It does not typically connect the majority of end-users.
  • $10 million annually for the “Innovative Broadband Advancement Program” previously known as the “Rural Gigabit Network Pilot Program.”