WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service wants to streamline the application and implementation process for the Community Connect Grant Program to bring broadband to unserved rural communities, according to a new proposal.
"With access to the same advanced telecommunications networks of its urban counterparts, especially broadband networks designed to accommodate distance learning, telework, e-government and telemedicine, rural America will see improving educational opportunities, health care, economies, safety and security, and ultimately higher employment," the proposal noted.
The proposed amendments to the program are designed to streamline and improve flexibility in the application process and in implementation.
One change would allow applicants to define their proposed service area by using the agency's web based mapping tool instead of relying on the census or a commercial atlas that may not recognize the community.
Other proposed changes would provide more flexibility in the use of the 15 percent matching funds requirement and a simplified system for scoring applications.
The program was initiated as a pilot program for two years, and then formally implemented in 2004.
"The main purpose of this grant program is the construction of broadband facilities in areas where no broadband exists today with a secondary benefit of providing for a community center that provides free broadband service to all critical community facilities in the proposed funded service area for a two year period," the agency said.
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