USDA is now accepting applications for grants to bring broadband service to rural areas.

“Universal access to affordable broadband will stimulate local economies and create jobs,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “All Americans — regardless of where they live — should be able to benefit from the opportunities available in our digital age.”

State and local governments, corporations and Indian tribes are eligible to apply for grants from $50,000 to $1 million through USDA’s Community Connect Grant Program, which was created to help rural residents tap into the tremendous potential of the internet.

Community Connect grants will bring state-of-the-art broadband services to some of America’s most isolated and economically challenged communities. Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis and can be used to:

• Construct, acquire or lease broadband transmission services;

• Improve, expand or lease community centers that provide free access to broadband for at least two years before, during and after normal work hours and on Saturdays and Sundays;

• Purchase computer equipment, and

• Provide broadband to all critical community facilities — first responders, police, etc. — within the proposed service area.

Applications are due by the close of business on June 19. The application guide for this grant program can be found at Broadband Grant Application Guide. Also see the April 20 Federal Register, page 17941.

USDA Rural Development’s mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. Rural Development fosters growth in homeownership, finances business development and supports the creation of critical community and technology infrastructure.

Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development’s Web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov.