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USDA Launches New Program to Expand High-Speed Internet Access in Rural America

Name
Erin McDuff
City
Portland
Release Date
Dec 13, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is offering up to $600 million nationwide in loans and grants to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America through a new pilot program, announced State Director John Huffman today.

“Internet access is a necessity, not an amenity, but it can be difficult for many rural areas to build the infrastructure necessary to achieve reliable, high-speed broadband,” said Huffman. “We are excited to partner with rural Oregon communities to help meet their e-connectivity needs through this new program.”

The ReConnect Program, established in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, will help establish internet access in rural areas that currently have insufficient broadband service. Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers, and municipalities are eligible to apply. Rural Development is the primary agency delivering this new program, with assistance from other federal partners.

Nationwide, USDA will make available approximately $200 million in grants, $200 million in low-interest loans, and $200 million in loan and grant combinations. Projects funded through this initiative 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.

Proposed projects must create access speeds of at least 25 mbps upload and 3 mbps download. Priority will be given to projects that propose to deliver higher-capacity connections to rural homes, businesses, and farms.

The start of the application window will be announced in February 2019. Applications must be received by the following dates:

  • April 29, 2019, for grant funding
  • May 29, 2019, for combined loan and grant funding
  • June 28, 2019, for loan funding

To help customers with the application process, USDA will hold a series of online webinars and regional in-person workshops. The full list of public events will be made available soon on the ReConnect Program resource portal.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety, and healthcare; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. Learn more at https://www.rd.usda.gov/or.