For any funding option that includes grant funds, evaluation criteria for scoring the application will be included in the Federal Register notice that opens an application window. Applications submitted for a certain category will be ranked and awarded based only on those applications included in that category. Applications in the same category will be scored and ranked against the following special evaluation criteria.
- Rurality of PFSA (25 Points). Points will be awarded for serving the least dense rural areas as measured by the population of the PFSA per square mile or if the PFSA is located at least one hundred miles from a city or town that has a population of greater than 50,000 inhabitants. If multiple service areas are proposed, the density calculation will be made on the combined areas as if they were a single area and not the average densities. Population densities of 6 or less or if the PFSA is located one hundred miles from a city or town of 50,000, 25 points will be awarded. A GIS layer identifying areas located at least one hundred miles from a city or town that has a population of greater than 50,000 inhabitants can be found in the ReConnect Program Service Area Map.
- Level of existing service (25 Points). Projects that are proposing to build in areas that are not receiving service of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream will receive 25 points, with points awarded based on the number of households lacking such service that the project will serve. Applicants must provide supporting evidence that 25/3 service does not exist for those households. To the extent possible, applicants must identify all existing providers in the PFSA and indicate what level of service is actually being provided. Applicants are not required to treat the publicly available FCC current Form 477 data as dispositive of what speed service currently exists.
- Economic need of the community (20 Points). Economic need is based on the county poverty percentage of the PFSA in the application. The percentages must be determined by utilizing the United States Census Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) Program. For applications where 75 percent of the PFSA(s) are proposing to serve communities with a SAIPE score of 20 percent or higher, 20 points will be awarded. Proposed funded service areas located in geographic areas for which no SAIPE data exist will be determined to have an average SAIPE poverty percentage of 30 percent. Such geographic areas may include territories of the United States or other locations eligible for funding through the ReConnect Program. A GIS layer identifying SAIPE areas can be found in the ReConnect Program Service Area Map.
- Affordability (20 Points). Applications can receive 20 points based on their affordability measures. Applicants should demonstrate that the broadband prices they will offer are affordable to their target markets, provide information about the pricing and speed tiers they intend to offer, and include at least one low-cost option offered at speeds that are sufficient for a household with multiple users to simultaneously telework and engage in remote learning. Applicants should also commit to applying to participate in the Federal Communication Commission’s Lifeline Program, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, and any successors to those programs which provide low-income consumers with discounts on broadband services. More details are available in the Application Guide.
- Labor Standards (20 points). It is important that necessary investments in broadband infrastructure be carried out in ways that produce high-quality infrastructure, avert disruptive and costly delays, and promote efficiency. The Agency understands the importance of promoting workforce development and encourages recipients to ensure that broadband projects use strong labor standards consistent with Tribal laws when projects propose to build infrastructure on Tribal Lands. Using these practices in construction projects not only promotes effective and efficient delivery of high-quality infrastructure and supports the economic recovery through employment opportunities for workers, but may also help to ensure a reliable supply of skilled labor that would minimize disruptions, such as those associated with labor disputes or workplace injuries.
Applicants should include in their applications a description of whether and, if so, how the project will incorporate strong labor standards, including whether workers (including contractors and subcontractors) will be paid wages at or above the prevailing rate; whether the project will be covered by a project labor agreement; what safety training, professional certifications, in-house training and/or licensure will be required of workers (including contractors and subcontractors); whether a locally-based workforce will be used; whether work will be performed by a directly employed workforce or whether the employer has policies and practices in place to ensure employees of contractors and subcontractors are qualified; and whether the applicant, its contractors, or subcontractors have any violations of state or federal labor, workplace safety and health, or employment laws within the last five years.
For applicants that commit to strong labor standards, consistent with Tribal Laws when the project proposes to build infrastructure on Tribal Lands, 20 points will be awarded. Projects that propose to build infrastructure on Tribal Lands must follow Tribal Laws such as Tribal Employment Rights Ordinances to be in compliance with a ReConnect award, regardless of receiving points under this standard.
- Tribal lands (15 Points). For applicants that are Tribal Governments and tribal entities and, at a minimum, 50 percent of the geographical area of the PFSA(s) is to provide service on tribal lands, 15 points shall be awarded. For non-tribal entities where at least 50 percent of the geographic area of the PFSA(s) is to provide service on tribal lands, 10 points shall be awarded. Tribal lands will be analyzed using the GIS layer in the ReConnect Program Service Area Map.
- Local governments, non-profits and cooperatives (15 points). Applications submitted by local governments, non-profits or cooperatives (including for projects involving public-private partnerships where the local government, non-profit, or cooperative is the applicant) will be awarded 15 points.
- Socially Vulnerable Communities (15 points). For applications where at least 75 percent of the PFSA(s) are proposing to serve Socially Vulnerable Communities, as defined in this FOA, 15 points will be awarded. A Socially Vulnerable Community is a community or area identified in the Center for Disease Control’s Social Vulnerability Index with a score of 0.75 or higher. A GIS layer identifying the Socially Vulnerable Communities can be found on the ReConnect Program Service Areas Map.
- Net neutrality (10 points). For applicants that commit to net neutrality, 10 points will be awarded. A board resolution or its equivalent must be submitted in the application committing that the applicant’s networks shall not (1) block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management; (2) impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of Internet content, application, or service, or use of a non-harmful device, subject to reasonable network management; and (3) engage in paid prioritization, meaning the management of a broadband provider's network to directly or indirectly favor some traffic over other traffic, including through use of techniques such as traffic shaping, prioritization, resource reservation, or other forms of preferential traffic management, either (a) in exchange for consideration (monetary or otherwise) from a third party, or (b) to benefit an affiliated entity.
- Wholesale broadband services (10 points). Recipients that commit to offering wholesale broadband services at rates and terms that are reasonable and nondiscriminatory will receive 10 points. To receive these points, applicants should submit evidence that they are actively marketing wholesale broadband services.