WASHINGTON, D.C. — Applications are now being accepted by the United State Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) ReConnect Rural Broadband Pilot Program (ReConnect) for projects that aid in bringing higher internet speeds to rural communities.

According to a press release Tuesday, around $600 million is available for the first round of funding.

Photo: United States Department of Agriculture

The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue was quoted in the press release stating the importance of providing high-speed internet to agricultural areas as well as his enthusiasm to begin working with applicants.

“Reliable, high-speed broadband internet e-Connectivity is critical for economic prosperity and quality of life in the 21st century, from education to health care to agriculture to manufacturing and beyond,” Perdue said, “We at USDA are very excited to begin accepting applications for funds from this new and innovative program, which will bring critical infrastructure investments to homes, farms, ranches, schools and health care sites in rural America.”

Internet speeds that are slower than 1 megabit per second upload and 10 megabits per second download are considered inadequate.

There are three funding options that businesses may apply for; grant-only, low-interest loans or  a combination of both.

Depending on which option is selected, candidates will need to ensure that their online application has been submitted. Deadlines for each type of funding are May 31 for grant-only applications, June 21 for a combination of federal loans and grants and July 12 for low-interest loans only.

The goal of the ReConnect program is to create opportunities and jobs in rural communities across America while also streamlining current farming operations and local businesses to increase efficiency.

For more information about the ReConnect program, visit the USDA’s website.