WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States Department of Agriculture has launched a new program called the ReConnect Program to bring more reliable broadband e-connectivity to rural communities across America.
The new program will provide $600 million in grants and loans that rural electric cooperatives and utilities, telecommunication companies and internet providers may apply for to further increase rural high-speed internet infrastructure.
Funding will be divided relatively evenly with $200 million in available grants with an application deadline of April29. Another $200 million will be available for loan and grant combinations with a deadline of May 29. The final $200 million will be used for low-interest rate loans with a deadline of June 28.
According to the USDA, money from the program has to serve rural communities where the total number of residents is less than 20,000 or internet speeds are less than 10 megabits per second (mbps) download and less than 1 mbps per upload.
Any project that is approved must generate internet speeds of at least 25 mbps upload and 3 mbps download per program guidelines. Proposed projects that deliver high-speed internet directly to rural home, farms and business will be given a higher priority.
In a press release yesterday, U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue stated that the new program is a necessity for rural communities.
“High-speed internet e-Connectivity is a necessity, not an amenity, vital for quality of life and economic opportunity, so we hope that today rural communities kick off their rural broadband project planning,” Secretary Perdue said. “Under the leadership of President Trump, USDA has worked to understand the true needs of rural communities facing this challenge so we can be strong partners to create high-speed, reliable broadband e-Connectivity.”