Feds give $44 million for rural broadband

USDA Rural Development Web site

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The Agriculture Department last week announced nearly $44 million in grants to develop broadband Internet access, telemedicine services and distance-learning opportunities in rural areas.

About $23.5 million will go to 57 distance-education projects, $11.3 million will help 34 communities nationwide get high-speed Internet access, and $8.9 million will fund 27 telemedicine projects.

The education projects will enable 556 schools to provide students with better tools. About 190 medical service facilities will improve their services for residents.

"Information technology is critical to rural Americans," said Thomas Dorr, Agriculture's undersecretary for rural development, in a press release. "It significantly improves the quality of their health care and their ability to receive access to educational programs that prepare them for a competitive future."

Under the broadband awards, communities in 20 states were selected based on their lack of high-speed access for police and fire services, hospitals, libraries, and schools. In return for the grants, communities will provide residents with computer and Internet access.

The grants are not only designed to improve quality of life and information access, but also help economic development.

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