The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) began accepting online applications for at least $600 million in first-round funding via its new ReConnect Rural Broadband Pilot Program on Wednesday. The program is aimed at promoting partnerships between the federal government, the private sector and rural communities to deploy infrastructure in areas with insufficient access.
In this initial series, USDA is offering at least $200 million in grants, $200 million in loan and grant combinations and $200 million in low-interest loans via its portal, reconnect.usda.gov. Deadlines are:
Grants-only package: May 31, 2019
Federal loans and grants: June 21, 2019
Low-interest loans: July 12, 2019
ReConnect and its $600 million appropriation from Congress more than doubles funds the agency offered via its historic broadband programs, according to USDA. And it will unveil future funding rounds later this year, the agency said.
Investing in rural American broadband will improve economic development, innovation and the quality of life, wrote Sonny Purdue in a report to the President. "Reliable and affordable high-speed internet connectivity will transform rural America as a key catalyst for prosperity," he wrote.
The original deadline for the first wave of funding was in April but most likely it was postponed due to the shutdown earlier this year -- something Gary Bolton, vice president of global marketing at ADTRAN, suggested when federal agencies closed their doors from Dec. 22, 2018 to Jan. 25, 2019.
"There may be a month or so delay," Bolton said at the time -- correctly -- about the shutdown's impact on USDA funding. "Every community wants to grow. The number one way to grow is to make sure you have robust broadband infrastructure."
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter or @alisoncdiana.
(Home page art source: USDA)