RUS Streamlining ReConnect Application Process

Randy Sukow


Federal Funding and Government Grants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) recently published rules to simplify rural providers’ process for applying for funding in the Rural eConnectivity (ReConnect) Program. The new rules go into effect on April 27 after RUS receives comments on them as they appear in the Federal Register (PDF).

Congress created the ReConnect Program in 2018 to support rural broadband providers with loans, grants and loan/grant combinations. RUS so far has distributed more than $1.3 billion through ReConnect, including 77 awards for $663,198,738 in 2019 and 83 awards for $674,706,879 in 2020. At the end of 2020, a COVID relief/omnibus spending bill allocated $635 million for another round of ReConnect awards.

ReConnect is one of several new broadband funding opportunities NRTC will cover in a webinar this Friday, March 5, at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. Speakers from NRTC, NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association and NRECA will participate and members from all three organizations are invited to sign in free of charge. Registration is now open.

Some of the new rules include:

  • Procedures to ensure that the areas applicants wish to serve do not have “sufficient access to broadband” defined as 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. Those procedures also will ensure that areas already receiving support through other programs, such as the Connect America Fund and the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, are not eligible to apply.
  • Streamlining the amount of data applicants must provide on the application. “RUS only requests information about parent [companies] and affiliates that is needed in order to make a sound financial decision about the project,” according to the new rules.
  • Rules to refine the process of applying for support through a broadband subsidiary company. The rules also “simplify the means by which an applicant’s technical capabilities and financial viability can be confirmed.”

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