(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn today praised the U.S. Department of Agriculture investment of over $17 million to provide high-speed internet to nearly 8,000 homes in the Berkeley and Orangeburg counties. The two awards are part of the ReConnect program created and funded by Congress to provide grants and loans to rural communities to improve broadband access.

“The ReConnect program is vital to my Rural Broadband Task Force’s initiative to eliminate digital deserts and ensure all Americans have access to high-speed internet by 2025,” Congressman Clyburn said. “Projects like those in Berkeley and Orangeburg are bringing communities online little by little. The Task Force is currently developing comprehensive legislation that will greatly amplify this broadband expansion.”

This year, the Congress provided $600 million to USDA for broadband deployment. Much more funding is needed however; conservative FCC estimates are that 21.3 million Americans lack access to broadband, while other experts suggest 162.8 million people don’t have internet access at broadband speeds. The Rural Broadband Task Force plans to roll out its comprehensive broadband deployment legislation in early 2020.