WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley today announced that after securing a $600 million investment in rural broadband in the 2018 spending bill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is launching a pilot program that will provide loans and grants to build broadband infrastructure across America—improving rural communities’ economies, health care, and quality of life.
“In today’s connected world, we need high-speed broadband in every rural community across Oregon and across America. Everyone needs it; rural health care providers, businesses, schools, small businesses, and farmers and ranchers,” said Merkley, who fought for the creation of the program as the Ranking Member of the Agriculture and Rural Development Appropriations Subcommittee. “Oregonians in some of the most remote parts of my state said that high-speed internet would be a game-changer for them, and so I used my position to fight for a massive increase in rural broadband. I am pleased that in addition to important traditional agriculture programs, we are investing in the future of our rural communities.”
Merkley is the only Oregon member of Congress from either chamber since Senator Mark Hatfield to serve on the Appropriations Committee, considered to be one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill.
Through the pilot program, the USDA will make available $200 million for grants, $200 million for loan and grant combinations, and $200 million for low-interest loans.
Projects funded through the pilot will serve communities with fewer than 20,000 people that currently have no broadband service, or have service that is extremely slow. Approved projects will improve access upload and download speeds by at least three-fold.