Farm and Ranch
US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is helping rural families close the digital divide
By Lisa Ramirez, Director of USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement
May 19, 2024
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The USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE) develops and maintains partnerships to address challenges facing rural and underserved communities. We connect those communities to USDA resources—including internet access. Navigating the 21st century is challenging without access to high-speed internet. OPPE wants to make sure everyone can fully participate in the wide range of online activities that are now commonplace.

“When the kids came home from school and I was working, no one could get on,” said Lindsay, a resident of rural McClellanville County, South Carolina. “Everyone had to stop and wait until I was done, and the kids would have to wait to do their homework,” Lindsay shared in a recent USDA blog.

McClellanville County is one area that recently benefited from USDA’s ReConnect Loan and Grant Program. This program helps build and expand broadband infrastructure in communities without sufficient internet access. USDA’s Rural Development worked with the Home Telephone Company to extend fiber optic cable throughout 219 square miles in the county. This connected 3,780 households, 19 educational facilities, 8 critical community facilities, and families like Lindsay’s.

“It’s been a game changer for us. We have multiple devices, and everyone is always running something, and we never had a glitch or interruption in service. It’s been beyond superior to what we had,” Lindsay said.

USDA’s ReConnect Program already has seen hundreds of millions of dollars of investments – and it is set to continue. “High-speed internet will improve the rural economy,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “It will help rural businesses grow and get access to new markets… to more and better health care and educational opportunities,” Vilsack said.

It also empowers people to take advantage of a host of online tools from other U.S. government agencies, such as a personal my Social Security account from the Social Security Administration. You can open a secure my Social Security account to verify your earnings, view your Social Security Statement, get benefit estimates, and more.

USDA understands that access to high-speed internet is a necessity. Essential community infrastructure is necessary to ensure that rural areas enjoy the same basic quality of life and services enjoyed by those in urban areas. Our Community Facilities Programs offer direct loans, loan guarantees and grants to develop or improve essential public services and facilities in communities across rural America. These funds are used to construct, expand, and improve facilities that provide health care, education, public safety, and public services.

We encourage you to learn more about our programs at Rural Development. Please share this information with your loved ones and your peers.