Rural eConnectivity Program Applications Accepted March 22 - April 22, 2024

The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published a Notice of Funding Opportunity for Round 5 of the ReConnect program. Applications can be submitted through the RUS online portal from March 22 through April 22, 2024. ReConnect loans and/or grants will be awarded for construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment to provide broadband service in rural areas. The minimum amount that can be requested is $100,000 in any funding category. Applicants may request a maximum of $50 million if applying for a loan only or a 50% loan/50% grant combination (up to $25 million each). The maximum amount of grant funds that can be requested is $25 million.

Proposed projects must be capable of providing 100/100 Mbps to every premises at the same time in the Proposed Funded Service Area (PFSA). Furthermore, at least 90% of the households in the PFSA must lack sufficient access to broadband, defined as 25/3 Mbps. Applicants are required to use the FCC’s Broadband Funding Map. Areas with an enforceable commitment for 100/20 Mbps service are ineligible, but this can be rebutted. However, areas with current broadband service from only satellite or unlicensed wireless facilities, or which have an enforceable commitment associated with only satellite or unlicensed wireless facilities, are eligible for funding.

100% loans are not scored and are awarded on a rolling basis. 50% loan/50% grant combinations and 100% grants are scored as follows:

    • 25 points for rurality
    • 20 points for economic need
    • 20 points for affordability
    • 20 points for labor standards
    • 15 points for tribal areas
    • 15 points for local governments and non-profits
    • 15 points for socially vulnerable communities
    • 10 points for net neutrality principles
    • Up to 10 points for most unserved locations per square mile

If you have questions about the ReConnect program or would like to apply for funding, contact an attorney in our Broadband, Spectrum, and Communications Infrastructure practice group.