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RUS Opening 2017 Application Windows for Rural Broadband Loans

Randy Sukow

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) has opened a filing window for applications to the Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee program from March 1 through March 31, 2017. A second application period will last from Sept. 1 through Sept. 30. The program provides funding to rural broadband providers for “construction, improvement, and acquisition of facilities and equipment to provide service at the broadband lending speed for eligible rural areas.”

RUS will consider funding for proposed wireline and wireless broadband services that deliver at least 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. The loan amounts will range between a minimum $100,000 and a maximum $10 million.

According to a notice published today in the Federal Register, there has been widespread rejection of Rural Broadband loan applications in the past due to confusion and misunderstanding of the filing rules. This year, RUS is offering “pre-application assistance” to program participants to coach them through the process. Interested parties may request assistance for the first filing widow from today (Jan. 9) through March 24. “Once the application is formally submitted, RUS will be unable to provide additional assistance with completing the application and will begin reviewing the application for conformance with the broadband regulation with respect to eligibility and technical and financial feasibility,” RUS said.

A second pre-application assistance period will last from July 1 through Sept. 22.

Update, Jan. 10:  A day after publishing its Rural Broadband loan filing deadlines, RUS came out with a similar notice with deadlines for its Community Connect Grant Program. RUS offers grants to rural areas that are both unserved by broadband providers and are low-income. Grant requests for FY 2017 should range between a minimum $100,000 and maximum of $3 million. Cooperatives and other nonprofit and government entities are eligible to apply. Like the Rural Broadband Loan Program, RUS will accept applications for those providing a minimum of 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. The deadline for all submissions is March 13.

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