The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development will begin accepting the first round of applications for the new Rural e-Connectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect Program) on April 23, 2019. Under this round, up to $200 million in grants will be made available nationwide to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas that currently lack sufficient internet access.
Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers, and municipalities are eligible to apply. Funds will be awarded to projects that have financially sustainable business models and that will bring high-speed broadband to rural homes, businesses, farms, ranches, and community facilities.
Projects funded through the ReConnect Program must serve communities with fewer than 20,000 people and that have no broadband service or where existing service is slower than 10 megabits per second (mbps) download and 1 mbps upload.
The deadline to apply for this round is May 31, 2019. For additional details, including how to apply, see page 5981 of the February 25, 2019, Federal Register.
Those interested in applying can learn more about the application process and program requirements at a ReConnect Technical Assistance Workshop that will be held in Welches, Oregon, on April 23-24, 2019. Pre-registration is required. Applicants can also request technical assistance from USDA by filling out a contact form.
Two additional application rounds for combined loan and grant funding and for low-interest loans will be held later in the year. Rural Development will announce through https://www.usda.gov/reconnect the dates when applications will start being accepted for those rounds.
In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. On December 13, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the rules of the new program, including how the loans and grants will be awarded. The ReConnect Program enables USDA to create and implement innovative solutions to rural e-connectivity by providing various financial assistance options to our partners and customers.
Questions related to USDA's telecommunications programs in Oregon may be directed to Joe Bradley, General Field Representative, (208) 401-8090. Those with project proposals outside of Oregon should contact the General Field Representative serving their state.