Government investing $600 million in rural broadband

Some Historic City News readers remember when many rural households didn’t have electricity or running water. Although those days are long gone for most, there’s still lots of room for improvement. In fact, our American infrastructure used to be the envy of the world. Now, it’s in disrepair.

In an unprecedented commitment to devote $50 billion, which is 25 percent in new federal money, President Donald Trump has introduced a proposal reported to stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments over the next decade, according to Sydney Gruters, Florida’s state director for US Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“A robust investment of $600 million in rural broadband, signed by the President in March, has passed Congress as part of the FY-2018 budget bill,” State Director Gruters told local reporters. “These funds will serve as a down payment on the President’s comprehensive funding proposal that will be further deliberated over the coming months.”

USDA will use these new rural broadband funds to administer a new program that will begin to meet the Administration’s goals of bringing reliable and affordable broadband e-Connectivity to America’s rural towns, cities and tribal areas.

Today, 80 percent of the 24 million American households that do not have 21st century high-speed internet are in rural areas, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

“That is unacceptable. America can do better for our rural citizens and for rural production sites that need e-Connectivity to continue to supply the nation and the world with food, fiber, minerals and manufactured products,” Gruters reported. “As we set up the new program, USDA will work diligently to ensure that the broadband e-Connectivity projects provide the most “bang for the buck” and improve access for as many rural American homes, businesses, farms, schools and health care centers as possible.”

Gruters says that she sees firsthand the tremendous difference USDA has made over the decades by investing in rural infrastructure, especially in Florida. He will be meeting with business owners, developers, elected officials and rural residents to learn about their infrastructure needs and concerns.

In addition to providing infrastructure financing, USDA is addressing statutory changes, regulatory relief, and cultural shifts to help improve the way the Federal government serves its citizens. USDA investments in rural infrastructure will create jobs, expand economic opportunities and help ensure that rural communities continue to be great places to live, work, start a business and raise a family.

You can contact Gruters or her team of specialists in Gainesville to let them know about what’s working – and what can be done better. The main number at the state office is (352) 338-3400.