The USDA announced $502 million in USDA ReConnect awards this morning and at a pre-briefing with media yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the balance of awards in Round 3 of the program will be announced soon.
In addition, Vilsack said “maybe” some ReConnect awards funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, will be announced soon. The IIJA made $1.9 billion available for the ReConnect program.
The ReConnect program awards grants and loans to service providers to cover some of the costs of deploying high-speed broadband in areas where high-speed service is not available.
Greg Puckett, Chair of the National Association of Counties’ Rural Action Caucus, was on hand for the media briefing to offer thanks and appreciation for the ReConnect program.
Noting that 80% of U.S. counties are rural and are home to 60 million people, Puckett said “Broadband is imperative [and] the lack of reliable broadband is a major economic barrier and is an issue of socioeconomic equality.”
Puckett called the ReConnect program a “historic investment” that will “reap benefits for generations to come.”
USDA ReConnect Awards
The $502 million in ReConnect awards announced today include $141 million in loans and $360 million in grants that will go to providers in 20 states.
This is the second batch of awards made in Round 3 of the ReConnect program. The first batch, announced in July, totaled $356 million.
Vilsack reminded media on the briefing call that USDA is still accepting applications for Round 4 of the ReConnect program and will continue to do so through early November. Round 4 was funded through the IIJA and has different guidelines from Round 3.
The biggest USDA ReConnect award announced today was nearly $50 million for Pine Belt Telephone Company in Alabama. Half of that amount came in the form of a grant and half of the amount was made as a loan.