The USDA already has awarded the full $550 million budget allocated for Phase 2 of the ReConnect rural broadband program. But it may award as much as an additional $150 million, a USDA official told Telecompetitor.
The agency can do this because some of the funding is made in the form of loans, which generate interest payments to USDA which, in turn, enables the agency to award additional funding.
The same dynamic apparently enabled the USDA to boost the budget for Phase 1 of the USDA ReConnect program. That program had a budget of $600 million but the agency ultimately awarded considerably more.
The Phase 1 program also got a boost via the CARES Act, which made an additional $100 million available for the program. Eligible applicants were those that applied for funding in Phase 1 but had not been awarded funding.
In both Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the ReConnect program, some awardees received 100% of funding in the form of loans, while others received all funding as grants or as a 50/50 combination of grants and loans.
USDA received 172 applications requesting a total of $1.57 billion in Round 2 of the ReConnect program.
North Carolina Award
USDA yesterday awarded some of the additional funding available in Round 2 to Yadkin Valley Telephone Membership Corporation of North Carolina, which will use a $2.3 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. The network will make high-speed broadband service available to 5,686 people, 67 farms and 18 businesses in Davie, Yadkin and Iredell counties in North Carolina.
USDA began making awards in Round 2 of the ReConnect program in June.
The USDA ReConnect program targets areas lacking broadband at speeds of at least 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. Awardees are required to deploy service supporting speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps.