U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today announced funding for 126 new rural broadband projects in 38 states and American Indian tribal areas that are intended to create jobs by improving local Internet infrastructure to thus attract outside investments.
The projects, backed by a federal investment of $1.2 billion, according to a White House press release, are the second wave of such initiatives announced by the Department of Agriculture under its Recovery Act. Vilsack said many of the projects would be targeted toward equipping libraries and schools as “anchor institutions” to provide broadband Internet service to their communities.
In a separate statement, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised the announcement, and estimated this second wave would bring broadband to more than 550,000 students and 1,900 schools, including 300 schools in regions where broadband access is currently an impossibility. Some 82,000 students would have the opportunity to access high-speed Internet for the first time, Duncan said.
In total, $2.65 billion of federal loans and grants have been provided to 231 projects over the two waves.
The announcement mirrors the priorities of the now-well-known National Broadband Plan, which was released by the Federal Communications Commission in March. And it also mimics the logic of some experts I talked to for a story about equipping school buses with WiFi, who said they believed school investment in Internet could spur upgrades in private infrastructure in rural communities.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.