The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now accepting applications for ReConnect funding to cover some of the costs of deploying broadband to unserved or underserved rural areas.
This round of the ReConnect program has a budget of $1.15 billion, to be awarded in the form of loans and grants. Eligible applicants are Native American Tribes; state, local or territory governments; corporations; limited liability companies and cooperative organizations.
Funding is available for projects that serve rural areas where at least 90% of households don’t have broadband speeds of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload. USDA will prioritize projects serving people in low-density rural areas and areas lacking internet access services at speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.
Applicants must build facilities capable of providing broadband service at upload and download speeds of 100 Mbps simultaneously to every location in a proposed service area. The USDA funding decisions will be based on the economic needs of the community to be served; the extent to which a provider will offer affordable service options; a project’s commitment to strong labor standards; and whether a project is serving Tribal lands or is submitted by a local government, Tribal government, non-profit or cooperative.
“High-speed internet is the new electricity,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in a prepared statement about the ReConnect rural broadband funding. “It must be reliable, affordable and available to everyone. The funding USDA is making available – through the current application process and through the nearly $2 billion in additional funding that will be provided for this program by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – will go a long way toward reaching this goal in rural America. . . Expanding broadband availability in rural areas will help create jobs, help farmers use precision agriculture technologies, expand access to health care and educational services, and create economic opportunities for millions of rural Americans across the country.”
More information and a link to the application portal may be found here.