Anne Hazlett, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development, says the USDA is accepting applications for grants to fund broadband infrastructure projects in unserved rural communities. She says e-connectivity is essential to the economic vitality and quality of life in rural communities. “Investing in broadband can strengthen rural economic growth and improve critical access to jobs, education, healthcare, and social services.” USDA is accepting applications through May 14 in the Community Connect Program. Grants ranging from $100,000 to as much as $3 million are available to state and local governments, federally-recognized tribes, nonprofits, and for-profit corporations. Applicants must be able to provide a 15 percent match on the grant amount they’re looking for. The funds must be used to provide broadband service at a minimum rate-of-data transmission of 25 megabits downstream and 3 megabits upstream. That’s the official speed benchmark that the Federal Communications Commission has adopted for broadband connectivity. Grant recipients must also use the USDA funding to offer free broadband service to all critical community facilities in their proposed service area for two years. For more information, go to www.rd.usda.gov.