Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday that the United States Department of Agriculture is accepting online applications for funding through the new ReConnect Rural Broadband Pilot Program.
The funds will 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 download and one megabit per second upload.
Perdue said, “reliable high-speed broadband internet e-Connectivity is critical for economic prosperity and quality of life”. Congress first appropriated funds for the new Rural e-Connectivity Pilot Program, known as ReConnect, in 2018. The program will be a proof-of-concept and enable the USDA to create and implement options for rural connectivity by providing various financial packages.
The USDA is making at least $600,000,000 available in rural broadband projects in the first round of funding through $200,000,000 in grants, $200,000,000 in loan and grant combinations, and $200,000,000 in low-interest loans.
The deadlines for the funding packages are May 31st for projects seeking federal funds from the grants-only package, June 21st for those seeking a combination of federal loans and grants, and July 12th for those seeking low-interest federal loans.
The $600,000,000 appropriation from Congress more than doubles federal funding available through the USDA’s longstanding broadband programs. Future rounds of funding for ReConnect are to be announced later in the year.
ReConnect funding applications can be submitted at the ReConnect website.