WASHINGTON, D.C. (WENY) – U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that the Agriculture Appropriations bill, which just passed in the Senate, includes $425 million for the USDA's Rural Utilities Service's broadband grant-loan pilot program.
Modeled after Gillibrand's bipartisan Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program (B-CROP) Act, the program will help expand access to high-speed broadband internet service in high-need areas, including Upstate New York.
“Much like the telephone, electricity and television, the internet has gone from a novelty, to a luxury, to a necessity. Communities across Upstate New York require it to build economic development, to learn, and even to fight the ongoing opioid scourge,” said Senator Schumer. “Even still, rural communities everywhere from the North Country to the Southern Tier lack basic sufficient capabilities, preventing them from operating effectively in the global marketplace. This federal investment will help solve that problem, by bringing high-speed internet to the rural communities that need it most. I’m proud of the role I played in securing this federal investment, and vow to see it through until it reaches the president’s desk, so that rural communities in Upstate New York have the high-speed broadband access they need.”
Nationally, over a third of rural Americans lack access to broadband. The grant will provide investments in improving broadband service in these areas.
“Internet access has become one of our most basic necessities, yet some rural communities still don’t have access to this essential technology,” said Senator Gillibrand. “People, schools, hospitals, and businesses all rely on high-speed internet to succeed at work and have a good quality of life. Broadband technology can also provide a lifeline to communities battling the opioid crisis. I was proud to fight to make sure that this critical assistance was included in the just-passed spending bill, and I will continue to work in the Senate to make sure that our communities have the tools they need to stay connected.”
In addition, the spending package also includes $53 million for the USDA's Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program, which helps rural communities improve their education and medical services through investments in better internet service and other technologies.
These grants can be used to purchase equipment such as transmission facilities, audio equipment, interactive video equipment and computer hardware, as well as technical assistance for eligible equipment, helping to expand the resources available for rural communities.
Specifically, $20 million of this funding will be provided to communities that are combating the opioid crisis.