The USDA’s Rural Utilities Service [announced this week the availability of up to $21 million in grants to bring broadband services to remote rural areas nationwide](http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2013/06/0120.xml&contentidonly=true).
“The Obama Administration believes that reliable infrastructure is critical to rural economic opportunity,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a written statement. “Expanded broadband service also is important because it supports employment opportunities and makes income growth possible in rural areas.”
The grants come through the Community Connect grant program and targets rural communities where broadband isn’t available but where it would make a “tremendous difference in the quality of life for citizens.”
The USDA also announced [new rules](http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-05-03/pdf/2013-10502.pdf) to govern eligibility for the Community Connect program to make sure the funds go where they are really needed.
The new regulations allow grant applicants to apply for service areas with the Rural Utilities Service’s mapping tool, rather than relying on Census designations or listings in a commercial atlas, as in the past. The new regulations also clarify that the 15 percent (cash) funding match may be used to fund operations of the project.
Details of the grant program are [here](https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/06/11/2013-13827/announcement-of-grant-application-deadlines#h-15). The deadline to apply is July 11.