STEVENS POINT, Wisconsin, August 10, 2022 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) State Director of Rural Development for Wisconsin, Julie Lassa, announced today that the department will begin accepting funding applications on September 6 to expand access to Broadband internet to millions of people in rural America nationwide, part of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to invest in rural infrastructure and affordable high-speed internet access for all. The USDA is making the funding available through the ReConnect program, which received new funding from President Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Act.
“In today’s digital world, high-speed internet access is essential,” Lassa said. “It’s a necessary infrastructure that enables connections, whether it’s with each other, students with schools, patients with healthcare providers, or businesses with new markets. Investments like the ones we’re making through President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill will help bridge the digital divide and help rural residents build a better future. [Audio: MP3, 579KB, 24 seconds]
The USDA is making additional funds available for high-speed internet through the fourth round of the ReConnect program. The ministry will begin accepting applications Sept. 6 for up to $150 million in loans, up to $300 million in loan/grant combinations, and up to $700 million in grants. The ministry will use funds allocated under the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Bipartisan Infrastructure Act Provides Historic $65 Billion Investment to Expand Affordable High-Speed Internet Access to Every Community in the United States
The application deadline is November 2.
The USDA has made several enhancements to the ReConnect program for Round 4. Together, they increase the availability of funding in rural areas where residents and businesses lack access to affordable high-speed Internet. These include:
- Allow applicants to serve areas where at least 50% of households do not have sufficient access to high-speed Internet.
- Addition of 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.
- Waiver of Matching Funds Requirement for: (a) Alaska Native Corporations, (b) Tribal Governments, (c) Projects proposing to provide settlement services, (d) Projects proposing to serving counties with persistent poverty and (e) projects proposing to provide services in socially vulnerable communities.
Additionally, to ensure that rural households that need internet service can afford it, all winners of this funding round will need to apply to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) of the bipartisan infrastructure. 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. The Department’s actions to expand high-speed Internet access in rural areas are key elements of the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to help America build back better in its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Context: ReConnect program
To be eligible for ReConnect program funding, an applicant 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.
For more information, see Federal Register page 47690, August 4.
To learn more about rural investment resources, visit www.rd.usda.gov/wi or contact the nearest USDA Rural Development Office.
Under the Biden-Harris administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunity, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This aid supports the improvement of infrastructure; Business development; lodging; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed Internet access in rural, tribal and very poor areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.
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