The Department of Agriculture is providing a fresh $1.15 billion in ReConnect program funding to expand broadband availability in rural areas.
According to a release, the new funding will be available for projects in areas where 90% of households lack service with download speeds of 100 megabits per second download speeds and upload speeds of 20 Mbps.
Priority will be given to projects in low-density rural areas and regions lacking speeds of at least 25/3.
“High-speed internet is the new electricity,” Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “It must be reliable, affordable and available to everyone. The funding USDA is making available – through the current application process and through the nearly $2 billion in additional funding that will be provided for this program by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – will go a long way toward reaching this goal in rural America.”
Applicants are required to commit to building projects that will provide download and upload speeds of 100 Mbps.
USDA says it will consider “the economic needs of the community to be served; the extent to which a provider will offer affordable service options; a project’s commitment to strong labor standards; and whether a project is serving Tribal lands or is submitted by a local government, Tribal government, non-profit or cooperative.”
Some $350 million is being earmarked for grants to tribes and socially vulnerable communities.
The recently-passed bipartisan infrastructure package also included about $2 billion more in ReConnect funding; USDA says that funding likely will be made available sometime in 2022.
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