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USDA rural broadband loan program updated

(March 10, 2011) - The USDA today released new information for applicants for its broadband loan program for rural areas. The program is designed to provide loans for the costs of construction, improvement, and acquisition of facilities and equipment to provide broadband service to eligible rural communities.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA has issued a Notice of Solicitations of Applications and regulations implementing the 2008 Farm Bill for the broadband loan program.

“Broadband investments are an essential part of the Obama Administration’s effort to ‘win the future’ by out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building our global competitors,” Vilsack said in the announcement. “Investments in rural broadband networks create jobs and economic opportunity for rural America. Broadband is critical communications infrastructure of the twenty-first century, and it is vital to building vibrant rural communities.”

The notice is being issued prior to passage of a final appropriations act to allow applicants time to submit proposals and give the agency time to process applications within the current fiscal year, according to the USDA. Upon completion of a 2011 Appropriations Act, RUS will publish a subsequent notice identifying the amount of funding available for broadband loans.

The application guide to assist in preparing applications is available at:

USDA’s Farm Bill broadband loan program has invested mote than $1 billion over the past decade in more than 100 projects nationwide, according to the USDA announcement. RUS is planning to schedule training opportunities to educate applicants on new program requirements, and how to submit complete and competitive applications. Dates for the training will be published on the USDA website.