Today I released our first comprehensive report on USDA’s deployment of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for rural broadband. It showed that the 68 investments we have already made will bring broadband access to an estimated 530,000 households, 93,000 businesses, and 3,300 anchor institutions like hospitals, schools, community centers and libraries. They will create 5,000 jobs immediately. And they will cover an area larger than the state of California.
President Obama and I are deeply committed to bringing advanced Internet capacity to all corners of rural America. We must do this because it will generate wealth and economic opportunities in rural communities as we help build a stronger future for rural America.
Access to broadband internet will help local businesses be competitive in domestic and world markets. It allows rural residents to have access to educational and health care opportunities that simply won’t otherwise. In many parts of the country farmers and ranchers are already using these technologies to improve crop production, marketing and distribution of commodities. We need to expand that access so that anyone, anywhere, can be a successful farmer, rancher, or business owner.
As I mentioned last week during our National Rural Summit in Missouri, we need to create an economic environment that ensures opportunities for young people in rural communities. And part of creating those opportunities will be ensuring access to the latest technologies. We need our best and brightest to be at home in the community where they grew up – we need their talent to create a strong, vibrate regional economies. The expansion of broadband funded by President Obama’s Recovery Act will help ensure that we build those 21st Century rural communities where folks want to live, work and raise their families.
Tom Vilsack is Secretary of Agriculture