USDA Opens Application Portal for New ReConnect Rural Broadband Infrastructure Program

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2019 – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now accepting online applications for funding through the new ReConnect Rural Broadband Pilot Program. These funds will enable the federal government to partner with the private sector and rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service. Insufficient service is defined as connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second download and 1 megabit per second upload. Beginning today, ReConnect funding applications can be submitted at https://reconnect.usda.gov.

   “Reliable, high-speed broadband internet e-Connectivity is critical for economic prosperity and quality of life in the 21st century, from education to health care to agriculture to manufacturing and beyond,” Secretary Perdue said. “We at USDA are very excited to begin accepting applications for funds from this new and innovative program, which will bring critical infrastructure investments to homes, farms, ranches, schools and health care sites in rural America.”

  John Rounsaville, State Director for USDA Rural Development in Mississippi added, “High-speed internet access is a critical necessity for Mississippi communities. Just as the Rural Utilities Service assisted Rural America in accessing electric power 80 years ago, the ReConnect program can assist many of these same areas in securing broadband access, especially in areas where it may be infeasible for the private sector to serve on its own.”

   Congress first appropriated funds for the new Rural e-Connectivity Pilot Program, known as ReConnect, in 2018. The program will be a proof-of-concept, enabling USDA to create and implement innovative options for rural connectivity by providing various financial packages to our customers.

   In this first round of funding, USDA is making available at least $600 million in rural broadband projects, through $200 million in grants, $200 million in loan and grant combinations, and $200 million in low-interest loans. The application deadlines for each of these funding packages are as follows:

May 31, 2019, for projects seeking federal funds from the grants-only package;

June 21, 2019, for projects seeking a combination of federal loans and grants; and

July 12, 2019, for projects seeking low-interest federal loans.  

   This $600 million appropriation from Congress more than doubles federal funding available through USDA’s longstanding broadband programs. Future rounds of funding for ReConnect will be announced later this year.

   For additional information about the ReConnect program, see page 5981 of the February 25, 2019, Federal Register and page 64315 of the Dec. 14, 2018, Federal Register.

   USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

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