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Applications open to fund broadband infrastructure projects

By Justin Walker

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting applications to fund modern broadband infrastructure projects through the ReConnect Rural Broadband Pilot Program.

The applications are only available online and will enable the federal government to enter partnership with private companies and rural communities to bring broadband to rural America, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said.

“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.”

The program, which was appropriated funds by Congress in 2018, will serve as a proof-of-concept, enabling USDA to create and implement innovative options for rural connectivity by providing carious financial packages to customers.

At least $600 million will be made available in the first round of funding. The funds will be allocated evenly between grants, low-interest loans and loan and grant combinations.

Deadlines to apply for each available package are:

May 31, 2019 for projects seeking federal funds from grant-only package

June 21, 2019 for projects seeking a combination of federal loans and grants

July 12, 2019 for projects seeking low-interest federal loans

The $600 million appropriated from Congress is more than double the amount of federal funding

USDA longstanding broadband programs previously received. Future rounds of funding for

ReConnect are expected to be announced later in 2019.

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