Digital transformation
The USDA is setting aside $200 million for the development of telecommunications infrastructure in rural areas to improve consumer access to the internet.

Commenting on the development, Anne Hazlett, the secretary for Rural Development, said: “Broadband infrastructure is vital to our economy and quality of life in rural America. Yet, today nearly 40 percent of rural residents and businesses lack access to the same quality service available in urban centers.”

By improving access to broadband services to under-served and unserved rural communities, the USDA says it is confident it will boost efficiency in all sectors including health care, workforce training and connection to global markets.

The loan will for instance help the Central West Virginia Development Association to connect some 3,600 households, businesses and community facilities.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, added: “The availability of high-speed internet is an absolute necessity for West Virginia students and businesses to be able to compete in a global digital economy.”

The loan is being issued through the USDA’s Telecommunications Programme, which has to date provided financial assistance to 500 companies and projects.

USDA funding

In related news, the USDA announced $2.5 billion in loans to improve the energy infrastructure in rural areas.

The loans will be used by utilities, businesses, cooperatives and rural communities in 27 states to modernise energy transmission and distribution infrastructure in line with new utility business models.The loans are being issued through the USDA Rural Development’s Electric Programme.

The loans are expected to accelerate the adoption of smart grid technologies such as smart meters and substation automation to improve the reliability and management of grid networks. $127 million has been set aside for smart grid projects.

For instance, the Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative in Florida state will use a $130 million USDA loan to build 297 miles of energy lines, upgrade 66 miles of existing lines and invests $1.4 million in smart grid solutions.

In addition to helping secure energy supply through an increase in adoption of renewable energy resources and energy efficiency measures, the loans will create jobs and help improve local economies in rural communities.

States set to benefit from the loans include Maine, New Mexico, Alaska and Wyoming.


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