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Agriculture Secretary Announces $1 Billion For Broadband Expansion

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WVIK News
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill) speaking at Hammond-Henry Hospital in Geneseo, Illinois

A new USDA program promises more than a billion federal dollars to expand broadband access nationwide.

On Friday afternoon, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited Hammond-Henry Hospital in Geneseo to announce the ReConnect Program, which offers $1.1 billion for expanding broadband access in rural areas.

"This is not check-the-box broadband. This is broadband with upload and download speeds that allow you to actually do business. That allow you to have distanced learning for students. That allows you to have telemedicine for your hospitals, enables that farmer to have precision agriculture on his or her farm."

Vilsack says $50 million from the USDA have already been made available to nationwide projects involved in telemedicine.

Vilsack was joined by Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, who emphasized the importance of quality tele-medicine for farmers in Illinois and Iowa.

"You've got farmers out harvesting right now--we're supposed to get a bunch of rain on Sunday, right?--They can't come in for a doctor's appointment. That doesn't mean any issues stop. So telehealth is incredibly important."

The USDA will begin accepting applications for grants and loans starting November 24th.