The U.S. Department of Agriculture will start accepting applications for its Rural e-Connectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect Program) on April 23.

The ReConnect Program enables USDA to create and implement innovative solutions to rural connectivity by providing various financial options to partners and customers

We earlier reported the rules for how the government would award $600 million in broadband loans and grants for the Rural Broadband Pilot program created by Congress. The USDA ReConnect Rural Broadband Pilot rules apply to a wide range of potential participants, including state and local governments and non-profit organizations, as well as for-profit corporations, limited liability companies, cooperatives and tribes.

The USDA will make three different types of awards:

  • $200 million in grants, with a requirement for 25% in matching funds, with an application deadline of May 31
  • $200 million in 50% grant/50% loan combinations, with an application deadline of June 21
  • $200 million in low-interest loans, with an application deadline of July 12

Note that all of the deadlines above are slightly later than the government originally announced.

Funds will be awarded to projects that have financially sustainable business models that will bring high-speed broadband to rural homes, businesses, farms, ranches and community facilities such as first responders, health care sites and schools. Telecommunications companies, internet service providers, rural electric cooperatives and utilities and municipalities may apply for funding through USDA’s ReConnect Program to connect rural areas that currently have insufficient broadband service.

Applications can be submitted through via reconnect.usda.gov.

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