USDA announced it is accepting applications through the Community Connect Broadband program for grants to provide broadband service to residents of remote, rural communities.

"Ensuring that all Americans have access to reliable broadband is a key part of the Obama Administration's effort to help create jobs and expand economic opportunities in rural areas," Vilsack said. "These grants not only are critical for businesses and residents, they also help first responders, educators and health care professionals by providing them with access to broadband service."

Community Connect grants are made available to the most rural, unserved and economically challenged areas. The funds are used to build broadband infrastructure. Awardees are also required to establish community centers that offer free public access to broadband.

For example, in 2011, Scott County Telephone Cooperative received a community connect grant to serve the rural community of Flat Top, Virginia. The project is under construction. In Missouri, Lake Communications is completing construction of a system to serve the community of Brownington. The project has allowed service to be provided to the community center and residential installation is in the final stage. In California, the Yurok Tribe is expanding broadband service to the Reservation. A community center will provide free Internet access to tribal residents and they will be able participate in online education and training programs. Free Internet access will also be provided to the tribal police and volunteer fire departments.

Information on available funding and application requirements are published on page 26241 of the May 3, 2012 Federal Register. More information on Community Connect Grants, including the application guide, can be viewed from the USDA Rural Development website.