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USDA Now Accepting Applications for New Program to Expand Rural High-Speed Internet Access

Erin McDuff
Release Date

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is now accepting online applications for funding through the new Rural e-Connectivity Pilot Program, known as ReConnect, announced State Director John Huffman today. The ReConnect Program will provide up to $600 million nationwide in loans and grants to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America.

"Access to reliable, high-speed internet is just as critical for rural communities as it is for larger urban centers, but rural areas face additional challenges expanding broadband infrastructure," said Huffman. "We are excited to begin accepting applications for this new program and to provide another resource to help rural communities with their e-connectivity needs."

Beginning today, telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers, and rural communities can submit ReConnect funding applications at https://reconnect.usda.gov. The funds can be used to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with a population of 20,000 or less that currently lack sufficient internet service. Insufficient internet service is defined as connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second (mbps) download and 1 mbps upload.

In this first round of funding, USDA is making available up to $600 million for rural broadband projects, including $200 million in grants, $200 million in loan and grant combinations, and $200 million in low-interest loans. The application deadlines are as follows:

  • May 31, 2019, for grant funding;
  • June 21, 2019, for combined loan and grant funding; and
  • July 12, 2019, for low-interest loans.

Potential applicants are invited to learn more about the ReConnect Program at an information webinar later this week. The webinar will provide an overview of the ReConnect application portal and discuss engineering, financial, and environmental requirements. If you are unable to join live, the webinar will be recorded and made available online for later viewing.

          What: Introduction to the ReConnect Application Portal Webinar
          When: April 26, 2019 @ 10:00 am PST
          Where: Online - pre-register for this webinar today

Congress first appropriated funds for the new ReConnect Program in 2018. The program will be a proof-of-concept, enabling USDA to create and implement innovative options for rural connectivity by providing various financial packages to our customers. This $600 million appropriation from Congress more than doubles Federal funding available through USDA’s longstanding broadband programs. Future rounds of funding through the ReConnect Program will be announced later this year.

For additional details, see page 16839 of the April 23, 2019, Federal Register.

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 www.rd.usda.gov/or.