Loans are now available to build broadband in rural areas.
Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack announced these loans, along with changes to the program required by the 2014 Farm Bill.
"USDA is committed to providing broadband to rural areas," Vilsack said. "Broadband is as vital as electricity was 80 years ago. Since 2009, USDA investments have delivered broadband service to 1.5 million households, businesses, schools, libraries and community facilities. But our work is not done."
USDA also is setting a minimum level of acceptable broadband service at 4 megabits downstream and 1 megabit upstream. USDA urges applicants to design systems that allow for 25 megabits downstream and 3 megabits upstream to meet future needs. USDA is accepting comments on these changes through September 28.
To be eligible for funding, an applicant must serve an area where at least 15 percent of the households are unserved. Applications with the most unserved households will be processed first.
The maximum loan amount under today's announcement is $20 million. Applications will be accepted through Sept. 30.