USDA announces $1 billion for rural broadband

Today, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the agency is accepting applications for Reconnect Program loans and grants to expand high-speed Internet access in rural communities.

The ministry is making over $1 billion available, funded through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“Ensuring that people in rural America are connected to reliable high-speed internet is bringing new and innovative ideas to the rest of our country, and it remains a key priority for President Biden,” Vilsack said. “That’s why high-speed Internet is an important part of USDA Rural Development’s work with rural communities. Reliable high-speed Internet opens up the global market for rural business owners. This allows them to grow their businesses and provide more jobs and opportunities for people in their own community.

Funds available include $700 million for grants, $150 million for loans, and $300 million for loan/grant combinations.

The deadline to apply is November 2.

To be eligible for funding, applicants must serve an area where high-speed Internet service is not available at speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) (download) and 20 Mbps (upload). The applicant must also commit to constructing facilities capable of providing high-speed Internet service at speeds of 100 Mbps (download and upload) to each location within its proposed service area.

This is the fourth round of funding for the ReConnect program. For this cycle, the agency authorizes applicants to serve areas where at least 50% of households do not have sufficient access to high-speed Internet. They also added a funding category for projects where 90% of households do not have sufficient access to high-speed Internet. For applications submitted in this category, no matching funds will be required. They also waive the requirement for matching funds for Alaska Native corporations, tribal governments, projects proposing to provide services in settlements, projects proposing to serve counties with persistent poverty, and projects proposing to provide services in socially vulnerable communities.

Additionally, to help rural households afford internet service, all winners of this funding round are required to apply to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The CPA is offering a rebate of up to $30 per month on internet service to eligible low-income households and up to $75 per month for households on eligible tribal lands.

Over the first three program cycles, the USDA has invested a total of $1.8 billion in ReConnect.

About Keneth T. Graves

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