Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman recently announced the approval of 42 Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant proposals benefiting 20 states and American Samoa for a total of $15 million. The DLT program provides financial resources to develop technologies needed to enhance learning opportunities and medical care for some of America’s most remote rural communities. ‘These grants are important for helping rural areas become better equipped with the use of high speed, modern technology,’ said Veneman. Using today’s technology not only opens new doors of information and opportunity, it insures the skills of rural school children will be developed in the area of today’s fast moving technology. Included in the $15 million in grants are 24 educational projects totaling $9 million that will fund 294 educational facilities. More than $6 million is targeted to fund 18 projects that will involve over 77 health care institutions. The grant funds will reach far into many rural communities throughout the country. Three projects in Texas were awarded, totaling $724,916. INFO-NET Consortium, located in Cherokee, will receive a grant of $463,040. Funds will be used to connect four more schools to the Central Texas College network. The Consortium will build on the original 8-district project and increase the number of community and educational opportunities for rural, remote and underserved persons of all ages in Central Texas. Students and community members will be able to take dual-credit courses at the high school and college level, as well as continuing education courses through Central Texas College. The funds will assist in expanding the learning and information needs of 12 rural communities located in five central Texas counties including Coryell, McCulloch, Lampasas, Mills, and San Saba. ‘We are pleased to announce this grant to the INFO-NET Consortium,’ said Bryan Daniel, Texas State Director. ‘The funds will benefit 4,364 students at 12 school districts as well as the more than the 8,900 residents in the area.’ In addition to the $15 million in grants announced today, USDA’s Rural Utilities Service is accepting applications for $200 million in loans and $110 million for DLT grant/loan combinations. Further details, along with regulations and application guide, are available on the web at http://www.usda.gov/rus/telecom/dlt/dltpublications.htm. The telephone contact is (202) 690-4493 and the fax number is (202) 720-1051. Applications are to be submitted to the USDA Rural Utilities Service, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Mail Stop 1550, Washington, D.C. 20250-1550. Indicate attention to the Director, Advanced Services Division, Telecommunications Program. For more information regarding USDA Rural Development programs, contact the USDA Local Service Center in Brownwood at (915) 643-1585, ext. 4.