The taxpayer funding is available through the USDA’s Public Television Station Digital Grant Program.
A total of $2,775,327 is available to help PBS stations acquire, lease or install the equipment or software necessary to complete the transition to digital signals. The maximum amount for grants under the program is $750,000 per public television station per year.The USDA became involved with digital television after the passage of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. The measure included a provision authorizing the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service to establish Public Television Digital Transition grants to assist public television stations serving rural areas transitioning to digital broadcast television.
According to the funding notice published in the Federal Register, "It is important for public television stations to be able to tailor their programs and services (e.g., education services, public health, homeland security, and local culture) to the needs of their rural constituents. If public television programming is lost, many school systems may be left without educational programming they count on for curriculum compliance."
Now that many rural PBS stations have completed the digital transition of their transmitters, the focus has shifted to power upgrades and translators, as well as digital program production equipment and multicasting/data casting equipment.
The Federal Communication Commission required television broadcasters to begin using digital signals by the end of 2006.
Over six years later, the USDA continues managing and funding the program under the direction of Congress.