Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
USDA Extends ReConnect Application Deadline to End of March
Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it is extending the ReConnect broadband program round two deadline to March 31, 2020. The agency will distribute $550 million this year in grants and loans to expand connectivity in rural America. Previously, applications were due by March 16 to be considered for the funding.
In a USDA press release, Deputy Under Secretary Bette Brand said:
By extending the ReConnect Program application deadline, we are helping even more qualified organizations access the essential funding to make high-speed broadband connectivity a reality for rural communities across America.
Round and Round
Congress approved the initial $600 million for the first phase of the USDA's ReConnect program back in 2018. In 2019, the agency accepted round one applications for projects in underserved rural areas that haven't received goverment broadband funding before. Eligible entities included small Internet Service Providers (ISPs), rural electric and telephone cooperatives, local governments and tribal networks.
So far, USDA has announced 70 grant and loan recipients across 31 states in ReConnect round one. We’ve written about a number of these awardees including, recently, Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, the Town of Arrowsic in Maine, and Alaska-based Cordova Telecom Cooperative.
Round two of the ReConnect program will distribute an additional $550 million, with awards to be announced later in 2020.
Despite the clear boost that ReConnect funding will give to rural connectivity, USDA has faced some criticism over the program. Commenters note that the application process can be complicated for smaller providers to complete without paying for outside consultants and also that eligible areas are limited by inaccurate data and unnecessary restrictions.
In particular, the ReConnect program's exclusion of areas receiving federal satellite subsidies is leaving some rural communities behind. Learn how subsidizing satellite ISPs can actually widen the rural digital divide.
Late last month, Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden raised these issues in two letters to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. The letters, joined by several Oregon Representatives and U.S. Senators, asked the agency to correct the “administrative hurdles and eligibility problems within the ReConnect Program that have put critical broadband infrastructure assistance out of reach for Oregonians and communities across America.”
NEK Broadband Gets $17.5 Million Boost as Vermont CUDs Continue Charge Toward Statewide Broadband Access
Joined by an array of leading broadband experts, infrastructure investment fund managers, institutional investors, private equity, and venture capitalists will gather in the nation’s capital next week for a day-long in-person conference to discuss and explore the digital infrastructure and investment asset profile required to support a 21st century information economy.
In early August, the city of Holland, Michigan (pop. 33,000) voted to fund the construction of a citywide, open access fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network. It’s the culmination of almost a decade of consideration, education, planning, and success, and builds on decades of work by the Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW) and city officials to build and maintain resilient essential infrastructure for its citizens. It also signals the work the community has done to listen to local residents, community anchor institutions, and the business owners in pushing for an investment that will benefit every premises equally and ensure fast, affordable Internet access is universally available for decades down the road.
New York Public Housing Solutions, Cable Speed Increases, and the Effects of Inflation | Episode 54 of the Connect This! Show
Join us live on Thursday, September 22, at 4pm ET for the latest episode of the Connect This! Show. Co-hosts Christopher Mitchell (ILSR) and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by regular guests Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) and Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting).