The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that it has awarded a $9.75 million ReConnect grant to Orangeburg County, S.C. The USDA ReConnect rural broadband grant will go toward making broadband available to 3,911 households, 21 farms, 17 rural businesses, 13 educational facilities, nine critical community facilities and a health care center, USDA said.

Orangeburg County will deploy a fiber-to-the-home network capable of delivering speeds of at least 100 Mbps, according to a press release. To be eligible for funding, an area could not have any locations capable of receiving broadband at speeds of 10 Mbps or faster.

An Orangeburg Country Broadband web page shows that entity already offering broadband to some parts of the county – although current speeds top out at 20 Mbps.

USDA ReConnect Rural Broadband
The ReConnect program was established by Congress last year and has a current budget of $600 million, of which USDA plans to award $200 million in the form of grants, $200 million as loans and $200 million as grant/loan combinations. The Orangeburg County award is the second that USDA has made in the ReConnect program. Last week, the agency announced the first award in the program, which went to Forked Deer Electric Cooperative in Tennessee and which, like the Orangeburg County award, was made in the form of a grant. The Forked Deer Electric Cooperative award was for $2.85 million.

The deadline for applicants requesting 100% grant funding was earlier than the deadline for the other types of awards, so it is not surprising that the first two awards were both for 100% grant funding. USDA has pledged to make additional announcements in “coming weeks.”

The ReConnect program was open to network operators of all types and if the first two awards are any indication, we could see considerable variety among funding recipients.

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