Last week, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is launching its e-Connectivity program to deliver high-speed internet in rural America. Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers, and municipalities may apply through USDA’s new “ReConnect Program” for up to $600 million in loans and grants.
Projects that are eligible for ReConnect Program funding will target rural areas with insufficient broadband service. Projects funded through this initiative must serve communities with fewer than 20,000 people with no broadband service or where service is slower than 10 megabits per second (mbps) download and 1 mbps upload.
USDA will make available $200 million in grants (applications are due by April 29), $200 million for loan and grant combinations (applications are due by May 29), and $200 million for low-interest loans (applications due by June 28). Projects that receive funding through the program will be required to create access speeds of up to 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload.
The funding for the USDA’s new rural broadband program originates from the Fiscal 2018 omnibus, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018. Congress passed the omnibus spending package in March 2018 with $600 million in new funding for rural broadband projects.