In December 2019, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sony Perdue, announced another round of funding under the ReConnect Program. Similar to the first round of funding, the USDA will make up to $550 million in awards available to help facilitate broadband development in rural areas that lack sufficient access to broadband. Instead of implementing a new set of rules, the USDA has opted to add procedures to the current program through a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). This expedites funding applications for eligible communities, which continue to be announced on a rolling basis.
The application period will open January 31, 2020 and will close no later than March 16 at 6:00 PM EST. More in-depth information can be found on the USDA’s website. Below we will highlight some of the key changes and best measures to prepare for round two of the ReConnect Funding Program.
Eligibility to Apply
In order to be eligible to apply for the second round of ReConnect Funding, the proposed service must be in a rural area that lacks sufficient access to broadband. To gain eligibility in the first round of funding, the proposed funding service area (PFSA) had to be completely without access and have terrestrial broadband service with speeds of 10 Mbps up / 1 Mbps down. The second round of funding only requires 90% of the “rural areas” – or service areas with populations at or under 20,000 residents – to lack access. The USDA will not fund projects that overlap service areas or areas that have been previously funded through ReConnect initiatives. Additionally, only projects that are both financially feasible and sustainable will be eligible for an award under this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA).
The program will provide up to $550 million in awards to expand reliable broadband to severely underserved rural areas. The funds are divided equally between three funding types: Grant, Loan, and 50-50 Grant and Loan combo. Applicants can submit a FOA application for one type of funding, with the following maximum awards per proposal:
- 100% Grant Max: $25 Million
- 50-50 Grant and Loan Combo Max: $50 Million split evenly between grant and loan
- 100% Loan Max: $50 Million
Like the first round of FOA, funding may be used for the following purposes:
- Construction or improvement of buildings, land, and other facilities required for providing broadband service. This includes equipment needed to provide additional services which will be provided over the same facilities.
- Reasonable pre-application expenses, not to exceed five percent of the total award. If the application is for a grant or loan/grant combo, then grant funds will be used first. Pre-application expenses must be incurred after the FOA and included in the submitted application.
- Acquisition and improvement of existing systems providing insufficient broadband service; only 100% loan requests are eligible.
- Funding terrestrial-based facilities supporting the provision of satellite broadband service.
Round One vs. Round Two of ReConnect Funding
As you begin your applications for the second round of ReConnect Funding, keep the following key differences in mind between both rounds of funding:
- 100% Grant eligible areas: For those seeking funding through 100% grants, 90% of the PFSA cannot have sufficient access to broadband, which is relaxed from the 100% of the PFSA in required in Round One.
- Financial statements: Round One funding required those applying to provide two years of financial statements to be eligible to apply, Round Two of ReConnect only requires one year of financial statements.
For a full list of differences between rounds of FOA funding, please consult the USDA’s website.
As you look towards January 31, begin planning your projects and decide what funding format would work best for your needs. Need help? Contact us today to learn how we can assist in the following ways:
- Help plan costs and structures data associated to areas for your application that have previously not been mapped
- Verify structure data against the FCC census block to ensure all eligible structures are accounted for
Current Mapcom clients, if you are submitting a proposal for the second round of ReConnect Funding, please let us know how we can help using the form below!