Rural Kansans Eligible for Share of $42 Million in Federal Grants to Improve Connectivity

TOPEKA – Governor Laura Kelly today announced that eligible Kansans can now apply for the for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Distance Learning and Telehealth (DLT) grants program.

The USDA has allocated $42.4 million in funding for 2021 DLT grants nationwide. The program aims to help rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other and to the world, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density.

β€œEnsuring all Kansans have access to quality, affordable broadband has always been one of my top priorities – but broadband access is just the first step to connectivity,” Governor Kelly said. β€œThis grant is an incredible opportunity for rural Kansans to get funding for the telecommunications equipment and resources needed for telehealth services, virtual school, digital business activity, and more. I appreciate the USDA’s efforts to improve connectivity throughout the country.”

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The program supports eligible rural communities with the costs associated with capital assets, instructional programming, and technical assistance. Program funds can be used on:

  • Broadband facilities
  • Audio, video and interactive video equipment
  • Terminal and data terminal equipment
  • Computer hardware, network components and software
  • Inside wiring and similar infrastructure that further DLT services
  • Instructional programming that is a capital asset
  • Technical assistance and instruction for using eligible equipment

DLT Grants are available to rural areas with population of 20,000 or less. Eligible applicants include most entities that provide education or health care through telecommunications, including most state and local governmental entities, federally recognized tribes, non-profits, for-profit businesses, and consortia of eligible entitles. Potential applicants can learn more, check if they are eligible, and apply here.

β€œLack of connectivity has been a huge challenge in education and healthcare for rural communities, and this grant program has the potential to make a real impact,” Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam said. β€œWe appreciate this partnership with USDA as we work to strengthen and improve the quality of life in rural Kansas.”

The Office of Recovery co-hosted a webinar on the USDA DLT program with the Office of Broadband Development, Office of Rural Prosperity, and Department of Agriculture. You can watch a recording of the webinar and learn more here.

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Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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