More than $1 Billion from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to be Invested to Increase Access to High-Speed Internet for People Living in Small Towns Across the Nation
CHAMPAIGN, Ill., August 15, 2022 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development State Director for Illinois Betsy Dirksen Londrigan today announced that the Department will begin accepting applications on September 6 for funding to expand access to high-speed internet for millions of people in rural America nationwide.
“Connectivity is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity – especially in remote areas of the state where distances and travel time to and from work, school and health care can be substantial,” Dirksen Londrigan said. “According to USDA’s 2021 ‘Rural America at a Glance’ report, only 72% of rural residents and only 63% of rural residents in persistent poverty counties had moderate- or high-speed broadband available. The internet is vital to our growth and continues to act as a catalyst for Illinois prosperity. From the farm to the school, from households to international markets, connectivity is driving positive change in our communities.”
USDA is making the funding available under the ReConnect Program, which received new funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. On September 6, the Department will begin accepting applications for up to $150 million in loans, up to $300 million in loan/grant combinations, and up to $700 million in grants.
The application deadline is November 2.
USDA has made several improvements to the ReConnect Program for Round 4. Collectively, they increase the availability of funding in rural areas where residents and businesses lack access to affordable, high-speed internet. These include:
- Allowing applicants to serve areas where at least 50% of households lack sufficient access to high-speed internet.
- Adding a funding category for projects where 90% of households lack sufficient access to high-speed internet. For applications submitted under this category, no matching funds will be required.
- Waiving the matching funds requirement for: (a) Alaska Native Corporations, (b) Tribal Governments, (c) projects proposing to provide service in colonias, (d) projects proposing to serve persistent poverty counties and (e) projects proposing to provide service in socially vulnerable communities.
Additionally, to ensure that rural households that need internet service can afford it, all awardees under this funding round will be required to apply to participate in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The ACP offers a discount of up to $30 per month towards internet service to qualifying low-income households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal Lands.
Background: ReConnect Program
To be eligible for ReConnect Program funding, an applicant must serve an area where high-speed internet service is not available at speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) (download) and 20 Mbps (upload). The applicant must also commit to building facilities capable of providing high-speed internet service at speeds of 100 Mbps (download and upload) to every location in its proposed service area.
For additional information, see page 47690 of the August 4 Federal Register.
Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/il.
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