Four rural Washington regions receive funding through the USDA ReConnect Program for high-speed internet.
One of the obstacles of modern life in many rural communities is a general lack of access to high-speed internet. As these regions of the country continue to look to the future, the need for dependable internet and connectivity increases. Farmers and ranchers throughout the state are keenly aware of this as they seek to operate their businesses in an increasingly high-tech climate.
The Washington Farm Bureau (WFB) has been a firm proponent of developing technological innovations for agriculture which includes infrastructure for high-speed internet access. WFB President, Rosella Mosby has reinforced this commitment saying, “Washington Farm Bureau supports efforts to expand broadband in rural areas and this is critical to the success of farm communities throughout the state."
This need has not gone unrecognized at the highest levels of our government. In 2018, Congress established a program dedicated to rural broadband funding. The program was titled ReConnect and is coordinated through the Department of Agriculture. Eligible applicants must meet certain criteria for possible consideration. Their area of service must be considered a rural area with at least 50% of the households experiencing low-quality broadband ability.
Over the past five years, the ReConnect Program has invested over $3.8 Billion in broadband funding to rural areas throughout the country to develop high-speed internet capabilities within these regions.
On Monday, June 12th, the USDA announced that it has awarded $714 million in both grant and loan amounts to companies, Public Utility Districts, and cooperatives working to connect individuals in rural areas to faster and more dependable internet. Washington State was one of the 19 states represented on the list of award recipients.
Four Washington counties have been awarded a collective total of over $51 million in grants and over $25 million in loans. Communities within the counties of Jefferson, Klickitat, Snohomish, and Lewis will be receiving funding. The award list published by the USDA identified that, in Washington State alone, this money will go to connect 8,434 people, 296 businesses, and 568 farms to high-speed internet service.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “High-speed internet is a key to prosperity for people who live and work in rural communities.” Secretary Vilsack explained that through these efforts, “we can ensure that rural communities have access to the internet connectivity needed to continue to expand the economy from the bottom up and middle out and to make sure rural America remains a place of opportunity to live, work, and raise a family.”
For more information on the ReConnect Program and to view the 2023 Program Awardees, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.