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Adelstein: Youth need broadband to stay on the farm

Future farmers who attended President Barack Obama’s rural economic forum in Iowa last week said that they would be unwilling to stay in rural areas without high-speed Internet service, Rural Utilities Service Administrator Jonathan Adelstein said Monday.

Adelstein said that while members of FFA (the new name for Future Farmers of America) want to participate in gaming and social interaction like young people everywhere, they also need high-speed Internet service for farming and other business activities.

Adelstein made the statement in a call to reporters when he announced a series of “Community Connect” grants and broadband infrastructure loans to rural communities. Eighteen recipients will receive more than $103 million in funding for 23 projects, according to a USDA news release.

Even if rural Americans have not yet gotten high-speed Internet service from stimulus package spending on that service, Adelstein said, the program has created jobs to build the networks. The Recovery Act broadband spending is supposed to bring high-speed Internet service to 7 million Americans, he said, and the companies and co-ops that have received the aid have three years in which to complete their work.

The Community Connect program provides grants to rural, economically challenged communities to construct, acquire or lease facilities to deploy broadband to facilities such as schools and public safety buildings, as well as residents and businesses in the community. Each project requires a matching contribution and must serve an area where broadband is not available. The grantee must agree to provide local community centers in the selected towns with at least 10 computers which are accessible for free for two years.

Adelstein declined to take a position on the T-Mobile-AT&T merger, which those companies claim will have benefits for rural America. He said that neither the Federal Communications Commission nor the administration had taken a position on the merger at this time.

Community Connect Grant and Telecommunications Infrastructure Awards