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US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is Helping Rural Families Close the Digital Divide

June 29, 2023 • By

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Last Updated: November 2, 2023

usda logoThe USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE) develops and maintains partnerships to address challenges facing rural and underserved communities. We connect those communities to USDA resources—including internet access. Navigating the 21st century is challenging without access to high-speed internet. OPPE wants to make sure everyone can fully participate in the wide range of online activities that are now commonplace.

“When the kids came home from school and I was working, no one could get on,” said Lindsay, a resident of rural McClellanville County, South Carolina. “Everyone had to stop and wait until I was done, and the kids would have to wait to do their homework,” Lindsay shared in a recent USDA blog.

McClellanville County is one area that recently benefited from USDA’s ReConnect Loan and Grant Program. This program helps build and expand broadband infrastructure in communities without sufficient internet access. USDA’s Rural Development worked with the Home Telephone Company to extend fiber optic cable throughout 219 square miles in the county. This connected 3,780 households, 19 educational facilities, 8 critical community facilities, and families like Lindsay’s.

“It’s been a game changer for us. We have multiple devices, and everyone is always running something, and we never had a glitch or interruption in service. It’s been beyond superior to what we had,” Lindsay said.

USDA’s ReConnect Program already has seen hundreds of millions of dollars of investments – and it is set to continue. “High-speed internet will improve the rural economy,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “It will help rural businesses grow and get access to new markets… to more and better health care and educational opportunities,” Vilsack said.

It also empowers people to take advantage of a host of online tools from other U.S. government agencies, such as a personal my Social Security account from the Social Security Administration. You can open a secure my Social Security account to verify your earnings, view your Social Security Statement, get benefit estimates, and more.

USDA understands that access to high-speed internet is a necessity. Essential community infrastructure is necessary to ensure that rural areas enjoy the same basic quality of life and services enjoyed by those in urban areas. Our Community Facilities Programs offer direct loans, loan guarantees and grants to develop or improve essential public services and facilities in communities across rural America. These funds are used to construct, expand, and improve facilities that provide health care, education, public safety, and public services.

We encourage you to learn more about our programs at Rural Development. Please share this information with your loved ones and your peers.

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  1. Lee D.

    From my perspective, it’s all just talk. Fast internet in rural places has been discussed for over a decade. In my region, nothing has happened so far. connections

  2. Leon G.

    Access to reliable high-speed internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity for education, healthcare, business, and overall quality of life. By focusing on providing rural families with better connectivity, the USDA is not only improving access to vital services but also opening doors to economic opportunities and education. Buy 5 Star Google Reviews

  3. Cowboy

    It is all talk as far as I am concerned. There has been talk of fast internet to rural areas for over a decade. There hasn’t been any movement on this in my area.

  4. Tony

    How did a black woman eating watermelon become the face of the rural community? The rural community is mostly White Americans voting Republican. The USDA is spending money on a program to make internet cheaper for white people.

    McClellanville County population is 96.1% White and 3.4% Black.

    • Tony

      The USDA isn’t even helping the poor white rural families. McClellanville average annual household income is $112K, the State of South Carolina average is $59K. The poor rural community is much less. The USDA is only helping the rich white people.

      Home Telephone Company put profit before struggling poor rural families. The company won’t put fiber optic lines in a poor community that cannot afford to pay for high speed internet service.

      The USDA used the grants to make the companies richer.

  5. Linda S.

    I’ll be glad when affordable internet comes to rural East Texas

    • Joe T.

      Thank you very much .

    • Dagmar M.

      Anywhere in rural Texas. You can’t even make a phone call sometimes because you can’t get a signal and I have a heart condition and it’s important to be able to reach out to 9-1-1 service.

  6. Carrie L.

    This program sounds wonderful. As a city dweller, I had no idea of the need.

    • Tracy G.

      It’s only due to Covid that rural America is now receiving federal dollars: much through the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill.
      Last mile connectivity and connecting rural America was a promise made more than 25 years ago. My electric co op provider was banging on the door of the state capital pre Covid to build out broadband on their existing electric backbone and were told they were a “monopoly.” A joke as you don’t have multiple electric providers in rural areas. So a pandemic accelerated appropriations leading to big block grants across the country. I only got broadband in February after living here 16 years.

      • furlowruth@yahoo. c.

        I have lived at the same location for over 31 years and my kids and grandkids, myself and others that have lived with us all needed the internet and not just during covid. And your right, if I’m correct it was George W Bush who brought up the same thing. I can’t get a patient portal, order our medication, my husbands disabled and the kids got him a smart tv and there was no point in it because they keep telling me I’m in a dead zone and actually the issue is that Verizon has a tower about a mile south of me and it has me blocked because it is facing straight East and I know this for a fact. Banking, credit cards, social security online or anything else is a mute point also. And I also have a 83 year old mother who has a phone that will not work and my husbands phone, he has to go almost completely outside to answ it and I have to go to the dining room by the big window and then I’ll hold my phone out the window to get anything. In Texas my nieces granddaughter has to ride a bus to a tower, so by the time she gets home she has to turn around and leave on that bus to do her homework, and that’s pushing 50 miles so she has no family life or social life. And I have been told over and over by t mobile that they are getting more and more tower’s up to help us. So far that’s a bust. I have to use my phone data for everything and then I’ll have to pay more for a phone that would pick up anything. Same old same stuff. Promises always broken.

  7. David W.

    Social Security Matters using a picture of a black woman eating watermelon is offensive and racist. You obviously haven’t fired all the insurrectionists from the previous administration. You should know better and do better!

    • Deb S.

      Having lived in the south my entire life, I did not see a racist photo. I saw a woman enjoying a slice of delicious watermelon. Made me want one. Would it not have been racist if it were a white person? Perhaps you are the problem, not the photo.

    • Eileen K.

      I usually find my SS Newsletter informative and always read it . . . but this time around I was equally dismayed at the insensitive use of the artwork . . . it takes me back to my involvement in interracial dialogues, when very honest and courageous African American participants shared such stereotypes that ate away at their dignity.

      I learn from others’ reactions all the time . . . the closer we are to an issue, the more light we can shed on it and share with others. Thanks to all who responded.

      Thank you for sharing, David . . . you prompted me to do so as well.

    • Debbi

      I agree with David. The photo is insensitive. It should be switched up.

    • Tamera C.

      Hey thought the same thing David when I saw it

      • Frank R.

        Hello,My island is 100miles x 35miles and I have to pay 60 dollar a month,for Internet what can I do SS.thank you

        • Luca R.

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