Community Connect Grant Application Deadline Nears

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, July 2, 2013 - The application deadline for a grant opportunity to establish broadband internet availability in underserved rural areas is quickly approaching.

USDA Rural Development’s Community Connect grant program will distribute $21 million to rural communities where broadband service is least likely to be available, but where it can make a tremendous difference in the quality of life for citizens.

Applications for the 2013 fiscal year must be postmarked, hand delivered, or submitted by Thursday, July 11 in order to be considered for funding. More information on the grant opportunity can be found at

Government entities, as well as incorporated, for-profit, and non-profit organizations are eligible. Funding can be used for the construction, acquisition, or leasing of facilities, development or improvement of a community center that offers internet access to the public or the cost of providing free bandwidth at community facilities for two years.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for broadband providers, organizations and community governments in rural areas of Illinois to boost their connectivity,” said Drew Clark, Executive Director of the non-profit organization Broadband Illinois. “Increased connectivity means increased opportunities for economic development, education and overall better lives.”

Broadband Illinois is offering assistance to entities wishing to apply for funding.

 "Broadband Illinois is already working in a number of very rural communities in underserved parts of their eTeam regions,” said Clayton Black, Broadband Illinois eTeam leader. “If you would like the help of your eTeam coordinator feel free to reach out to them for mapping assistance."

Since its inception, the Community Connect program has funded 229 projects with USDA investments of $122 million. In 2012, USDA assistance led to improved broadband service nationwide for nearly 65,000 rural households, businesses, and community institutions - such as libraries, schools and first responders.

Last year in Illinois, four providers were awarded funding to improve rural broadband services.

McNabb Telephone Company, Shawnee Telephone Company, McDonough Telephone Cooperative and Wabash Telephone Cooperative all received assistance through the Community Connect Program - leading to nearly 2,000 miles of prospective buried fiber-optic cable in Illinois’ rural areas.

This year, the USDA amended eligibility rules for the fund to widen the grant’s target. Those new rules included simplifying the application process by requiring a single project summary and map and giving applicants more flexibility on the types of resources that can be used to meet the 15 percent matching fund requirement.

"These rules give communities better access to the benefits that broadband service provides," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a released statement earlier this year. "The Obama Administration is working to ensure that rural residents share in the opportunities provided by modern Internet service."

More information on the grant can be found at

Any prospective applicants wishing to consult with a Broadband Illinois eTeam Coordinator can contact Brad Housewright at or 217-886-4552.

Tags: Community Connect, Rural, USDA

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