The Environmental Protection Agency is the latest federal agency to jump into the broadband development game. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: there’s no money on the table.
What the EPA is offering is “a team of experts [that] will help community members develop strategies and an action plan for using planned or existing broadband service to promote smart, sustainable community development”. In other words, if you are in a small rural town and have a broadband project in mind or, better yet, one that’s already funded, the EPA – working with the U.S. agriculture department – will help you figure out what to do with it. It’s not much, but on the other hand it’s easy to apply…
- Any community representative is welcome to submit a letter of interest to participate in Cool & Connected.
- Special consideration will be given to small towns and rural communities that face economic challenges.
- Special consideration will be given to communities in places where USDA has provided loans or grants in support of broadband or other internet- related services.
It’s a follow on to other EPA “sustainable community” projects, including a “liveable communities” project in Appalachia and a national local food development program. The Appalachian Regional Commission is listed as one of the program partners, along with USDA, so you might be forgiven for thinking that California isn’t at the top of the list. But that’s the way it always is with federal agriculture programs.
It’s worth applying for if 1. your community is small by Appalachian standards (i.e. really freaking tiny by Californian standards), 2. you have a broadband project in mind and 3. you need an excuse to rally your neighbors around it. Deadlines help focus attention, if nothing else. Then take whatever help comes around, and be ready to do the heavy lifting yourself. Including figuring out how to pay for it.