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USDA Opens Application Window for $1.15 Billion in Broadband Buildout Grants and Loans

Posted by CommLaw | Nov 29, 2021 | 0 Comments

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that applications will be accepted starting on November 24, 2021 for over $1 billion of grants and loans under its Rural Development Broadband ReConnect program. The application window will close February 22, 2022.

Reconnect funding is available for proposed broadband network projects in rural areas where at least 90% of the households in the proposed funding service area (PSFA) lack access to broadband service of 100 Mbps down and 25 Mbps up. ReConnect awardees must capable of providing 100 Mbps symmetrical service (i.e., 100 Mbps down and 100 Mbps up) to all premises in the PSFA. Entities eligible to apply include for-profit companies, state and local governments, and Tribal Governments.

Four types of funding are available:

  • Combination Grant & Loan - $250 million total will be available, with a maximum of $25 million grant and $25 million loan per awardee. Grant and loan amounts must be equal. Principal and interest loan payments are deferred for the first 3 years, and the interest rate is set at the U.S. Treasury rate.
  • 100% Loan - $200 million total will be available, with a maximum loan of $50 million per awardee. Principal and interest loan payments are deferred for the first 3 years, and the interest rate is set at 2 percent.
  • 100% Grant & Match - $350 million total will be available, with a maximum grant of $35 million per awardee. The awardee must provide matching funds of 25 percent of the proposed project costs.
  • 100% Grant - $350 million total will be available, with a maximum grant of $35 million per awardee. These grants are available only to Tribal governments proposing to serve their Tribal areas, and to applicants with PFSAs that consist of at least 75 percent Socially Vulnerable Communities.

The USDA's Notice of Funding Opportunity and ReConnect website provide more details of the program and application requirements. USDA will conduct a webinar on December 8 and 15, 2021 regarding the ReConnect application process.

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