It was exciting to see the number of successful NTCA members and their bid for USDA broadband support from the newly created ReConnect program administered by RUS over the course of the past few months. Rural broadband providers in North Dakota, North Carolina, Iowa, South Carolina, Alaska and points in between have secured grants and loans to build broadband to those communities that are in need of connectivity and it’s going to be exciting to see how all of this plays out as the builds begin. I have been honored to join some of our folks for these announcements and am only sorry that there is no magic travel wand that allows us to personally cheer and be present at every announcement. There is energy to seeing the impacted community members gather to hear good news for investments since broadband deployment means economic development and more services coming!
But no time to take a breath…. USDA will be rolling out the second round of support, thanks to Congressional approval at the end of this month so the time is right to have some constructive conversations with RUS on what the game plan will be this go-around. What lessons were learned and what is top of mind for the agency as we look to have another half billion dollars plowed into rural infrastructure. That is why I am delighted that the RUS Acting Assistant Administrator for Telecommunications programs Laurel Leverrier will be joining me for a webcast chat on this important topic next week. We’re going to have a chance to hear from Laurel what might change and what might stay the same through this process and pick her brain on how rural broadband providers can continue their path to be part of the solution for bridging the rural/rural digital divide.
The ReConnect program offers a range of funding options to help facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas that do not have sufficient access with the goal of connecting as many rural Americans as possible. Laurel is a key leader at USDA and has spent more than 15 years working within the Telecom Programs at RUS so I know she’s going to be game to take member questions during our webcast.
Mark your calendars for Thursday, January 23rd at 2pm EST and join the conversation on how this next round of congressionally appropriated $555 million will be utilized in rural America!