Rural Utilities Service to Accept ReConnect Program Funding Applications

A Funding Opportunity Announcement (“FOA”) has been published in the Federal Register announcing that the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) will accept applications for the second funding round in fiscal year 2022 for the ReConnect Program, utilizing funding provided under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The funding window will open September 6, 2022 and close November 2, 2022. Applications must be submitted electronically through the RUS on-line application portal. Applications submitted after November 2, 2022 will not be accepted until a new application opportunity has been opened by an additional FOA.

Under the FOA, loans, grants, and loan/grant combinations will be made for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas. The RUS encourages applicants to consider projects that prioritize assisting rural communities recovering economically from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring all rural residents have equitable access to Rural Development programs and benefits, and reducing climate pollution and increasing resilience to the impacts of climate change through economic support to rural communities.

A total of $1 billion will be available in five categories: 100% loans ($150 million available), 50% loans/50% grants ($150 million available), 100% grants ($150 million available), 100% grants for Alaska Native Corporations ($350 million available), and grants for projects serving areas where 90% of households lack sufficient access to broadband ($200 million available).

Outside of the last category, applicants will be required to submit evidence that their Proposed Funded Service Area (PFSA) has at least 50% of their households without sufficient access to broadband, defined as service delivering at least 100/20 Mbps. Facilities proposed to be constructed with award funds must be capable of delivering 100 Mbps symmetrical service to every premise in the PFSA. Areas receiving, or under consideration for, other federal funds are eligible for ReConnect funding as long as an entity has not received final approval to receive other federal funding to construct terrestrial facilities providing sufficient access to broadband in the proposed funded service areas as of the Federal Register publication date.

Applications will be scored via a point system using the following criteria:

  • Rurality of Proposed Funded Service Area – 25 points
  • Level of Existing Service – 25 points
  • Economic need – 20 points
  • Affordability – 20 points
  • Labor Standards – 20 points
  • Tribal areas – 15 points
  • Applications submitted by local governments, non-profits and cooperatives – 15 points
  • Socially vulnerable communities – 15 points
  • Net neutrality – 10 points
  • Wholesale broadband service – 10 points

For more information about funding, eligibility and participation requirements, or if you would like to apply for funding, please contact an attorney in our Broadband, Spectrum, and Communications Infrastructure practice group.