In 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture launched the ReConnect Program, which offers grants and loans to provide funding for the construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas.
On August 6, 2022, the USDA Rural Utilities Service (RUS) issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for the second funding round of the Rural eConnectivity Program (ReConnect Program) for Fiscal Year 2022.
The FOA provides a total of $1.15 billion in eligible grant and loan opportunities made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (BIL). Counties can begin applying on September 6, 2022, through November 2, 2022, at 11:59 EST.
About the ReConnect Program
The ReConnect Program offers three types of funding opportunities for broadband deployment in rural areas:
- Loan/Grant combinations
Eligibility for the ReConnect Program
For ReConnect Program eligibility, the proposed project must meet the following criteria:
Lack Sufficient Access to Broadband
At least 50% of the households in the proposed funded service area (PFSA) must lack sufficient access to broadband service, as defined by the latest FOA. The recently published FOA on August 4 defines sufficient access to broadband as at least 100 Mbps downstream (download) and 20 Mbps upstream (upload).
Serve All Premises in the PFSA
The proposed network must be capable of providing broadband service to every premises in the PFSA at the time of application submission at the speed defined by the most recent FOA. Note that being capable of delivering 100 Mbps symmetrical service to all premises means that all premises in the PFSA must be able to receive the service at the same time.
Be in a Rural Area
A rural area is any area not located in a city, town, or incorporated area with a population of greater than 20,000 inhabitants or an urbanized area contiguous and adjacent to a city or town that has a population of greater than 50,000 inhabitants.
Other Eligibility Requirements
Ineligible or Overlapping Service Areas
If any part of a PFSA is ineligible, the RUS may request that the application be modified. Otherwise, it will be rejected.
In addition, the RUS will not fund more than one project that serves any given geographic area. RUS reserves the right to make funding offers or seek consultations to resolve partially overlapping applications to ensure that as many eligible applicants as possible are considered.
In this case, the agency may do the following:
- Determine that the overlap is so insignificant that no agency action is necessary
- Request one or more applications to be revised to eliminate the overlapping territory
- Choose one application over another based on the amount of assistance requested, the awards already applied to the area, or the level of need for the project
- Choose the project that scores higher or is more financially feasible, based on the judgment of the agency
Prior Funded Service Areas
RUS will not fund a project proposing to serve an area that has already received financial assistance. According to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, the service areas of existing RUS borrowers without sufficient access to broadband, as defined by the most recent FOA, are eligible for ReConnect funding.
These may include:
- RUS Broadband Loans: Service areas of borrowers that have RUS broadband loans that are receiving sufficient access to broadband are ineligible. If an RUS borrower is not providing sufficient access to broadband in an area, any entity may apply to serve that area.
- RUS Community Connect Grants: Service areas that received grants under the RUS Community Connect Grant Program are eligible if they do not have sufficient access to broadband, except for grants under construction.
- RUS BIP Grants: Service areas that received a 100% grant under BIP are eligible if they do not have sufficient access to broadband.
- Service Areas with Other Funding: Applicants are encouraged to work with the governor’s office for the states, as well as tribal governments for the tribal areas, where they are proposing broadband service and submit information detailing where the funding has been provided.
A certification from the appropriate tribal official is required if the service is proposed over tribal lands. The appropriate certification is a Tribal Government Resolution of Consent and the appropriate tribal official is the Tribal Council of the Tribal Government with jurisdiction over the tribal lands. If an applicant fails to provide certification for service on tribal lands, it will not be considered for funding.
Funding Breakdown for the ReConnect Program
|Funding Type||Award Type||Amount|
|100 Percent Loan – General||Loan||$150 million|
|50 Percent Loan/50 Percent Grant – General||Loan/Grant combination||$300 million|
|100 Percent Grant – General||Grant (25% match requirement)||$150 million|
|100 Percent Grant – Tribal governments, Alaska Native Corporation (ANC), colonias, persistent poverty areas, socially vulnerable communities||Grant (no match requirement)||$350 million|
|Projects serving areas where 90% of households lack 100/20 Mbps broadband||Grant (no match requirement)||$200 million|
Counties are invested in helping to aid the deployment of accessible and reliable broadband in rural communities all over the U.S. Access to high-speed internet in rural areas facilitates economic development, access to telehealth, remote work opportunities, and innovation like precision agriculture.
Get Help from GrantWorks
The fourth round of USDA Broadband ReConnect Funding is available now. GrantWorks can help you determine if your community is eligible and guide you through the application process. Contact us today for your free consultation!