THIS CARTOON expresses the work that is needed to improve rural internet access.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II discussed a new opportunity for rural communities to expand broadband.

The USDA is implementing a rural broadband pilot program of loans and grants to expand broadband in underserved rural and Tribal areas with a population of 20,000 or less. Congress approved the legislation in Section 779 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, with Cleaver’s support.

Rural areas without internet service speeds of 10 megabits per second download and 1 Mbps upload at the household level are eligible to apply for the pilot program funds. This program will help build modern broadband infrastructure for many rural American residences, businesses, farms, schools and health care facilities.

“There are quite a few farms and homes out in the country that do not have adequate internet access. They could really benefit from programs like this. Not only homes, but schools, hospitals and local governments can all use higher speed internet access,” Cleaver said.

Cleaver is a member of the Rural Broadband Caucus. In May 2018, he held a USDA Rural Utilities Service Broadband Workshop in Higginsville to highlight ways municipalities and companies may seek grants to help improve broadband services.

In the previous Congress, Cleaver signed a bipartisan letter encouraging President Trump to include investments in rural broadband in future infrastructure proposal packages.

Cleaver also voted for the 2018 Farm Bill. Among other rural developments, the bill authorized $350 million per year for new broadband infrastructure.

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