USDA Played Key Role in Connecting Broadband to Rural America

City
Washington, D.C.
Release Date
Jul 01, 2020

June Progress Report Shows USDA Played Key Role in Connecting 430,000 Rural Americans, Improving Investment Data, and Cutting Red-Tape

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2020 - Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture joined its government partners to release a Progress Report detailing the accomplishments of the American Broadband Initiative (ABI) one year after the release of the initial ABI Milestones Report. The Progress Report released today shows significant achievements across government in removing regulatory barriers to broadband deployment, leveraging public resources for broadband expansion, and maximizing the impact of federal broadband funding.

 “High-speed broadband internet connectivity, or e-Connectivity, is a cornerstone of healthy and prosperous communities,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “Under the leadership of President Trump, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to America’s rural communities in deploying this essential infrastructure because we believe that when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

 U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios added, “President Trump has made expanding rural broadband access a top priority, and Americans nationwide are seeing results. Since its launch last year, the American Broadband Initiative has made important progress in removing barriers to broadband deployment and spurring investment in network buildout. The Trump Administration remains committed to ensuring all Americans can connect to our 21st century economy.”

 The Progress Report highlights USDA’s Accomplishments in the last year in deploying high-speed broadband across rural America:

  • USDA, through its ReConnect program, has awarded more than $744 million in funds through March 2020 to support more than 80 broadband projects benefiting more than 430,000 rural residents in 34 states.
  • USDA worked with FCC to establish processes to coordinate awards for rural broadband deployment to ensure that USDA-funded grants do not overlap with the FCC’s $20 Billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) or the $9 Billion 5G Fund for Rural America.
  • USDA developed a public map viewer that displays basic information, such as location, site designation, and contact information for all communications sites located on National Forest System lands. Additionally, the data was provided to the Department of Interior for use in their JOEL map.
  • USDA partnered with GSA to finalize a revised Standard Form (SF-299), making this Common Application Form suitable for telecommunications purposes.
  • USDA published a final rule in April 2020 to implement the 2018 Farm Bill, which streamlined the Forest Service’s procedures for evaluating applications to locate or modify communications facilities on lands they manage.

 

BACKGROUND

On February 13, 2019, the American Broadband Initiative (ABI) was launched with the release of the Milestones Report, detailing the Administration’s strategy to drive changes across Federal Agencies to identify and remove barriers to broadband access and leverage public assets and resources to expand our Nation’s broadband infrastructure capacity. The ABI’s mission is built on three core principles:

  

  1.  Government processes should be clear, transparent, and responsive to stakeholders.
  2. Federal assets should provide the greatest possible benefit to stakeholders and the public.
  3. The Federal Government should be a good steward of taxpayer funds.

Of the 60 commitments included in the original Milestones Report, 48 (80%) have been successfully completed. The remaining 12 commitments are in progress. Read the Progress Report.

 The Department of Agriculture shares leadership of the ABI with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Economic Council, and the White House Offices of American Innovation, Management and Budget, and Science and Technology Policy. Overall, 80% of the original 60 commitments including in the original report have been successfully completed, and the remaining commitments are underway.

 In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force. To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB).

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