Grants aim to hook up rural areas

Community Connect Broadband Grant Program

The Rural Utilities Service, part of the Agriculture Department, began accepting

applications July 8 to provide broadband transmission services to rural,

economically challenged communities nationwide.

For fiscal 2002, $20 million in federal grants will be made available

through a national competition to rural communities. Community eligibility

requirements for funding via the Community Connect Broadband Grant Program

include:

* Having no more than 20,000 residents.

* Submitting an application containing a proposed project idea for that

community.

* Having no prior access to a broadband transmission service.

* Being able to provide a minimum matching contribution that is equal

to 15 percent of the grant amount awarded.

Through the grant program, rural schools, libraries, education centers,

health care providers, law enforcement agencies, public safety organizations,

residents and businesses will be able to gain access to advanced technologies

that were not readily available in the past.

"This is the first time we've had all this grant money," said Claiborne

Crain, the assistant to the administrator for rural utilities. "Last year

we offered funding for Internet dial-up services. This year is quite different

because we are offering a faster broadband transmission service."

According to Cain, Rural Utilities Service officials are not sure of

the amount of responses they will receive following the July 8 announcement.

"Last year we had only $2 million in grant money to distribute," he said.

"The difference between this year and 2001 is a significant increase, therefore,

we are not sure what to expect," he added.

Applications will be accepted through Nov. 5, 2002.

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