The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is extending the deadlines for applications for its Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect Program). The USDA said the deadlines for the program have been pushed back to no earlier than May 31 or later from the previous deadlines, which began in April, in order to give potential applicants adequate time to access technical assistance from USDA staff and its partners. The new USDA ReConnect deadlines for grant, loan, and grant-loan combination applications will be posted in the Federal Register in late February.

“We’ve seen such strong interest in ReConnect from rural telecommunications providers and utility cooperatives, that we want to be sure there’s enough time for them to put solid applications together for these innovative funding opportunities,” said Bette Brand, acting administrator for USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, in a prepared statement. “The USDA team stands ready to assist with engineering and business plans, to be sure these new Federal funds are as impactful as possible.”

As one part of that technical assistance, USDA hosted webinars this week with general information about the ReConnect program and guidance from experts for potential applicants.

Last year, Agriculture Secretary Perdue announced the rules of the program, called “ReConnect,” including how the loans and grants will be awarded to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America. Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers and municipalities may apply for funding through USDA’s new ReConnect Program to connect rural areas that currently have insufficient broadband service.

We reported yesterday that the USDA launched what it is calling an “e-connectivity toolkit” to help support connectivity. The e-Connectivity Toolkit includes details on 27 different USDA programs that support broadband deployment. The resource is intended as a simple guide that enables users to properly identify their type of e-Connectivity project, then to locate federal government resources for planning, equipment, construction, and research as well as to locate other e-Connectivity projects.

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