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USDA Seeks Feedback on Pilot Program for Rural Broadband Service Expansion

The Agriculture Department has begun to ask for public comments on a new pilot program that aims to expand the delivery of broadband services to remote areas in the U.S. through private investments.

USDA said Friday it will leverage $600 million in appropriations under the Consolidated Budget Act of 2018 to establish new finance offerings that would help the private sector invest in initiatives to bring broadband services to rural households, health care facilities and schools through the e-Connectivity Pilot Program.

“Reliable and affordable internet e-Connectivity truly is the key to prosperity in the 21st century, and I’m pleased Congress recognized this need and has provided this critical funding,” said USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.

“Broadband e-Connectivity is the next interstate highway system of global commerce, and connecting rural areas to broadband will be a game-changer for our entire nation,” he added.

The agency seeks inputs on ways to assess “sufficient access” to broadband service at speeds of one megabit per second upstream and 10 Mbps downstream; options to validate broadband speeds delivered to rural households; and indicators of potential benefits to agriculture, transportation, manufacturing and other rural industries through the use of public data.

USDA will accept comments through Sept. 10.

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