The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s new ReConnect Program is offering up to $600 million in loans and grants to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America. Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers and municipalities may apply for funding through the new program to connect rural areas that currently have insufficient broadband service.
USDA will make available approximately $200 million for grants (applications due to USDA by April 29), as well as $200 million for loan and grant combinations (applications due May 29), and $200 million for low-interest loans (applications due by June 28).
Projects funded through this initiative must serve communities with fewer than 20,000 people with no broadband service or where service is slower than 10 megabits per second (mbps) download and 1 mbps upload. Evaluation criteria include connecting agricultural production and marketing, e-Commerce, health care and education facilities.
Approved projects must create access speeds of at least 25 mbps upload and 3 mbps download. Priority will be awarded for projects that propose to deliver higher-capacity connections to rural homes, businesses and farms. USDA seeks to stretch these funds as far as possible by leveraging existing networks and systems without overbuilding existing services greater than 10/1 mbps.
USDA will hold a Reconnect Program introductory webinar on Thursday, December 20, 2018 at 2:00pm (EST). This introductory webinar will provide a high-level overview of the new program, the types of funding available, eligibility provisions, notice of proposed service area, and evaluation factors. To join the webinar on December 20, click here.
USDA will also host a series of future informational webinars and workshops to provide more information on the ReConnect Program. Please visit https://reconnect.usda.gov for up-to-date information on these events.