The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is accepting applications for loans and loan guarantees under its Rural Broadband Access Program. Funding awarded through this program may be used to construct, improve, or acquire facilities and equipment to provide high-speed broadband to rural areas.
To be eligible, the applicant must provide service at a minimum rate-of-data transmission of 25 megabits downstream and three megabits upstream for both mobile and fixed service. These are the benchmark speeds the Federal Communications Commission has adopted for broadband connectivity. Applications proposing to provide broadband service to the most unserved households will receive priority.
More than $100 million is available nationwide through the Rural Broadband Access Program under this announcement. Individual awards can range from $100,000 to $25 million.
The application process will be different from prior years. Since the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, Rural Development has only accepted applications during discrete application windows. However, USDA has determined that the use of application windows has not effectively supported its mission to finance improved broadband service in rural areas. As a result, Rural Development will now accept applications on a rolling basis throughout the federal fiscal year, which will conclude on September 30, 2018. This will give applicants more flexibility as they work to develop their applications while giving Rural Development the ability to request additional information or modifications to submitted applications whenever necessary.
Applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Rural Development will review and rank applications every 90 days through September 30, 2018.
Applications must be submitted using the online system RD Apply. For additional details about the program and application process, see page 13225 of the March 28, 2018, Federal Register.