The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering up to $600 million in loans and grants to help build rural broadband infrastructure. Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers and municipalities may apply for funding through USDA’s new ReConnect Program to connect rural areas that lack sufficient broadband service.
USDA will make available approximately $200 million for grants, $200 million for loan/grant combinations and $200 million for low-interest loans.
Applications are due to USDA by April 29 for grants, by May 29 for loan/grant combinations applications, and by June 28 for low-interest loans. “High-speed internet e-Connectivity is a necessity, not an amenity, vital for quality of life and economic opportunity, so we hope that today rural communities kick off their rural broadband project planning,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said in making the announcement.
Projects funded through this initiative must serve communities with fewer than 20,000 people with no broadband service, or where service is slower than 10 mbps download and 1 mbps upload. Approved projects must create access speeds of at least 25 mbps upload and 3 mbps download. Priority will be awarded for projects that deliver higher-capacity connections to rural homes, businesses and farms. USDA seeks to stretch these funds as far as possible by using existing networks and systems without overbuilding existing services greater than 10/1 mbps.
December 17, 2018