On September 23, 2020, the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a Funding Opportunity Announcement for grants ranging from $100,000.00 to $3,000,000.00 in fiscal year 2021, which will be awarded through a competitive application review process. Grant applications must be filed no later than December 23, 2020. For-profit companies, state or local governments, and non-profit entities are eligible to apply.
The RUS Community Connect Grant Program provides funding for the build-out and enhancement of broadband networks in rural and economically challenged areas that currently lack access to broadband (defined as at least 10 Mbps up and 1 Mbps down). Grant recipients must provide broadband service of at least 25 Mbps up and 3 Mbps down to all residences, businesses, and critical community facilities (e.g., schools, fire stations, and libraries) in the grant area. RUS will give priority to applications based on the degree of need in the community and on whether the proposed project would “provide measurable results in helping rural communities build robust and sustainable economies through strategic investments in infrastructure, partnerships and innovation.”
Grant applicants must define a specific proposed rural geographic area that lacks access to fixed broadband service. Further, a grant applicant must provide matching funds of least 15% of the project's costs from non-federal sources. Grant funding is not available in any proposed area for which RUS already provides funding through another RUS broadband grant or loan program (e.g., the Rural ReConnect program or the Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program).
For more information regarding the RUS Community Connect program, see here.