The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is now accepting applications for loans to expand internet access in rural communities.
The Rural Broadband Access Program provides financing for the construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment to provide high-speed broadband to rural areas.
Corporations, limited liability companies, cooperatives, state and local government entities, Native American tribes, and tribal organizations are eligible to apply. The proposed project must provide service at a minimum rate-of-data transmission of 25 megabits downstream and 3 megabits upstream for both mobile and fixed services. These are the benchmark speeds the Federal Communications Commission has adopted for broadband connectivity.
Individual awards can range from $100,000 to $25 million. Applications proposing to provide broadband service to the highest percentage of unserved households will receive priority.
Rural Development also offers pre-application assistance, including the review of draft applications, detailed feedback, and identification of areas where an application does not yet meet eligibility requirements. The online application system allows USDA to assist an applicant with every component of the application as it is being developed. Additionally, Rural Development may ask the applicant for additional information to clarify aspects of a complete application.
Applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Rural Development will review and rank applications every 90 days through September 30, 2019.
For additional details about the program and application process, see page 57406 of the November 15, 2018, Federal Register.
Questions related to the Rural Broadband Access Program 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. General questions may also be directed to Shawn Arner with USDA Rural Development's Loan Origination and Approval division, (202) 720-0800.