U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced $550 million in funding for rural high-speed broadband projects under round two of the Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect Program) set to open Jan. 31, 2020.
“This second round of ReConnect funding will help USDA be an even stronger partner in closing the digital divide in America’s rural communities,” Secretary Perdue said at a rural broadband event in December. “Our core mission at USDA is to increase rural prosperity through boosting economic opportunity in rural America. We know that rural communities need robust, modern infrastructure to thrive, and that includes having access to broadband e-Connectivity. USDA is proud to partner with rural communities to deploy this critical infrastructure, because we know when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. To date, USDA has awarded $191 million through the ReConnect program. These grants, loans and combination funds enable the federal government to partner with the private sector and rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service. Insufficient service is defined as connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload.
For 2020, USDA will make available up to $200 million for grants, up to $200 million for 50/50 grant/loan combinations, and up to $200 million for low-interest loans. The application window for this round of funding will open Jan. 31, 2020. Applications for all three funding types (grant, combination loan and grant and loan) will be accepted in the same application window, which will close March 16, 2020.
For all funding categories, the proposed funded service area must be in an area where 90% of the households do not have sufficient access to broadband. Applicants must propose to build a network capable of providing service to all premises in the proposed funded service area at a speed of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.
A full description of 2020 ReConnect Pilot Program funding is available on page 67913 of the Dec. 12, 2019, Federal Register (PDF, 336 KB). To learn more about eligibility, technical assistance and recent announcements, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect .
For questions about the ReConnect program and applications call (202) 720-2791 or send the question by email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Apply for ReConnect funding at https://reconnect.usda.gov from January 31, 2020 until 3 p.m. Pacific Time on March 16, 2020 for all three funding types: grant, combination grant and loan and loan.
In addition, the agency is requesting comments on the ReConnect Program. Comments may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov using Docket ID: USDA-2017-0002-0001. All comments should specify “Identifying Regulatory Reform Initiatives.”
Comments may also be sent to email@example.com or by mail to: Office of Budget and Program Analysis USDA Jamie L. Whitten Building Room 101-A, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250.
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. With a portfolio of $228 billion, this agency's assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; homeownership; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/nv.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.