The ReConnect Program Opens Up $1.5 Billion in Grants and Loans to Fund Broadband in Rural Areas
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that they will reopen their ReConnect Program offering loans, grants and loan-grant combinations to private companies and public organizations to facilitate the deployment of broadband in rural areas currently lacking coverage.
The USDA hopes that ReConnect will grow opportunities in rural America and spur economic development in these regions.
The application window for these funds will open on September 6th, 2022 and close on November 2nd 2022.
Many public and private entities are eligible to apply for these funds, including:
- Private Corporations
- LLCs and Limited Liability Partnerships
- State and Local Government Agencies
- Cooperative and Mutual Organizations
- Territories of the U.S.
- Indian Tribes
USDA’s ReConnect Program offers a broad mandate on how these funds can be used. According to the program’s website, grants and loans made available to the above listed entities must be used to fund “the construction or improvement of facilities required to provide fixed terrestrial broadband services.”
Eligible facilities include any building, land, or fixed wireless service. The $1.5 billion in available monies will be broken up in the following way: $700 million in grants, $150 million in loans, and $300 million in combination loan/grants.
Changes to the ReConnect Program 2022
The service area eligibility requirements have changed slightly for the ReConnect Program’s latest round of funding. In order to be eligible for these funds, at least 50% of households in the proposed funded service area must lack sufficient access to broadband internet.
Additionally, rural areas have been defined as areas not located within a town, city, or incorporated area with 20,000 residents or less. Urban areas adjacent to towns or cities that meet the 50% threshold for homes lacking broadband are eligible at 50,000 residents or less.
The ReConnect Service Area Map shows the areas that are eligible to receive funding for fixed broadband infrastructure projects. You will see that nearly every U.S. state has areas eligible for USDA funding.
The Department of Agriculture has also more clearly defined “sufficient broadband access” as at least 100 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 20 Mbps upstream. Any proposed project must offer symmetrical broadband to all premises in the proposed funded area of at least 100 Mbps at the same time.
The evaluation criteria for grants will be based on a point system that considers (in order of importance):
- The rurality of the proposed area where fixed broadband projects will be undertaken
- The level of existing service in said area
- The economic needs of the community
- Project affordability
- Labor standards
- Tribal areas will receive additional points in applications
- Local governments, cooperatives, and nonprofits will also receive additional points
- The social vulnerability of the community where the project will take place
- Net neutrality
- Companies that commit to offering wholesale broadband services at reasonable rates will receive additional points
For any additional information about the USDA’s ReConnect Program, check out their website here.
Infinity Technology Solutions for Rural Broadband
Delivering better broadband access to a greater number of people has been a foundational part of the mission of Infinity. We believe that access to broadband is critical to the social and economic wellbeing of every citizen.
Infinity has a number of solutions, including building sustainable fiber networks, to help you meet connectivity requirements in your community. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.