The U.S. Department Agriculture in today’s Federal Register announced the filing deadlines for a second round of Rural eConnectivity (ReConnect) Program support. USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) will award $550 million in grants, loans and grant/loan combinations to projects aimed at spreading broadband connectivity to remote rural areas. The filing window will open on Jan. 31, 2020, and close on March 6.
NRTC Broadband Solutions can help members prepare applications for ReConnect support. If NRTC has performed a feasibility study relatively recently, the data can go a long way toward providing highly detailed network design, financial forecasts, environmental compliance, construction maps, and other USDA requirements. If recent feasibility study data is unavailable, NRTC will assess applicants on a case-by-case basis.
In the meantime, there are several things NRTC members can do right now to prepare applications. NRTC suggested many of them earlier this year before ReConnect Round One. Members can seek further advice by contacting their regional business managers or posting a message through the Contact page.
Round Two funding is limited to areas where 90 percent of locations lack 10 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream service. Providers who win support will be required to provide 25 Mbps/3 Mbps speeds or faster.
ReConnect’s $600 million first round attracted 146 applications for more than $1.4 billion. RUS has announced several awardees in that program is still in the process of announcing more. Like Round One, Round Two will consist of three funding categories. NRTC can help members applying for support determine which category is best for their situation:
- 100 percent grants (scored by density, speed and the number of farms/business served.)
- 50/50 grant/loan Combination (scored as above)
- 100 percent loans (awarded on a rolling basis)