On October 25, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced its acceptance of applications for the Rural eConnectivity Program (ReConnect Program) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. The ReConnect Program will provide a total of $1.15 billion in loans, grants and loan-grant combinations to help rural communities gain access to high-speed internet through the promotion of broadband deployment. USDA will begin accepting applications for the program on November 24, 2021, and applications can be submitted on the ReConnect Program website.
The ReConnect Program provides funds to cover costs of construction, improvement, and/or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband services in eligible rural areas, including counties. Of the total $1.15 billion, $200 million will be allocated in loans, $250 million in a loan-grant combination, $350 million in grants and $350 million in grants specifically for tribal governments and socially vulnerable communities.
In order to be eligible for the ReConnect Program, at least 90 percent of households must lack sufficient access to broadband within a proposed funded service area (PFSA). The threshold of sufficient access to broadband is defined as an area with broadband speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upstream. Any facilities proposed to be constructed with award funds must be capable of delivering 100 Mbps symmetrical service to every premise in the PFSA.
Counties are strongly encouraged to apply for the ReConnect Program as eligible entities. NACo will continue to provide updates on the USDA’s ReConnect Program, as well as publish blog material on future relevant federal broadband funding opportunities.