The US Department of Agriculture is investing nearly $16 million expanding distance learning and telemedicine, it was announced on Tuesday, 4th February. The Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, stated that the Obama Administration is investing in rural telecommunications equipment to help expand access to education, create jobs and improve health care in 25 states. This funding will help to support Obama Administration’s target declared last June to connect 99 percent of students to broadband in the next five years.
The funding is being provided through USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Loan and Grant program. It provides funding to rural hospitals, clinics, schools and libraries for equipment and technical assistance for telemedicine and distance learning. Grant recipients must demonstrate that they serve rural America, prove there is an economic need and provide at least 15 percent in matching funds.
The grants include nearly $1 million to Dartmouth-Hitchcock and its Center for Telehealth to deploy telemedicine equipment and services in New Hampshire and Vermont and $184,000 to the South Central Ohio Computer Association in Piketon, Ohio, to link 20 high schools. The full list of recipients gives details of how all the grants will be used.
The Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Program provides both educational and healthcare opportunities in rural communities through grants that finance advanced telecommunications technologies. The focus is on using the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect rural areas to each other and to the world, thus overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density. DLT, which began in 1993, has funded more than 1,400 projects totaling $512 million.