The U.S. Department of Agriculture will begin accepting applications for the second round of the USDA ReConnect Program beginning on Friday, Jan. 31.

This round, which will total $550 million, will continue toward the goal of partnering with the private sector to improve broadband to rural communities. The main goal is to provide services that are faster than 10 Mbps downloads and 1 Mbps uploads that now are deemed to be insufficient.

USDA ReConnect Second Round
The ReConnect program is open to telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, ISPs and municipalities. “Reliable, high-speed broadband e-Connectivity is critical for economic prosperity and quality of life, from education to health care to agriculture to manufacturing and beyond,” USDA Secretary Perdue said in a press release. “Under the leadership of President Trump, we at USDA are very excited to begin accepting applications for the second round of funds totaling $550 million for this innovative program, which will bring critical infrastructure investments to even more homes, farms, ranches, schools and health care sites in rural America.”

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This USDA ReConnect second round will feature loan and grant funding. The first phase of the program, which is ongoing, focuses on an equal division of $600 million between loans, grants and hybrid loans and grants. So far, the USDA has awarded $343,429,703 in funding. The funding area includes 79,534 rural households. A detailed breakdown of the awards to date is available at this link.

The initial rules for the USDA ReConnect second round were announced on December 13, 2018. The USDA received 146 applications between May 31, 2019 and July 12, 2019. The total requested amount was $1.4 billion.

Rural broadband funding programs are a hot topic this week in Washington. The FCC will vote this week on whether to adopt the RDOF order, which would establish a $20 billion program to help bring broadband to additional unserved areas.

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