The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the availability of $20 million in technical assistance grants funding for rural broadband projects.
The program, known as the Broadband Technical Assistance Program, was created in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The funding can be used to support technical assistance projects including feasibility studies, network designs and “broadband financial assistance applications.” The funding also can be used to help access federal resources and to collect and report data.
The funding will go to three types of entities. Up to $7.5 million will go to technical assistance providers, who can each request between $50,000 and $1 million. Up to $7.5 million will go to technical assistance recipients, who can request between $50,000 and $250,000. And up to $5 million will go to projects supporting cooperatives. Applicants in the latter group can request between $50,000 and $1 million.
In a press release about the broadband technical assistance grants, USDA said it encourages projects that help rural communities recover economically through “more and better market opportunities and through improved infrastructure.” Other projects that USDA encourages include those aimed at ensuring that all rural residents have equitable access to USDA Rural Development programs and that reduce climate pollution and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change through economic support to rural communities.
Applications are due June 30 and will be evaluated based on a point system involving:
- Work plan (up to 30 points)
- Organizational capacity (up to 20 points)
- Targeted communities such as tribes, colonia areas, persistent poverty counties and distressed energy communities (20 points)
- Rurality (up to 20 points)
- Economic need (up to 20 points)
- Performance measures (up to 20 points)
Additional information about the USDA Broadband Technical Assistance Program is available at this link.