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. For 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 where at least 50 percent of the households in each proposed funded service area are not receiving service of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream will receive 25 points. 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.
- 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 if in their service offerings, they 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.
- Labor Standards (20 points). It is important that necessary investments in broadband infrastructure be carried out in ways that produce high-quality infrastructure and promote efficiency. We understand the importance of promoting workforce development, and we encourage recipients to ensure their 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 promotes effective and efficient delivery of high-quality infrastructure and supports 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 three categories of strong labor standards and protections:
a. Strong labor standards: whether workers (including employees of contractors and subcontractors) will be paid wages at or above the prevailing rate*; whether the project will be covered by a project labor agreement; and/or whether the project will use a unionized project workforce; and
b. Demonstrated compliance with and plans for future compliance with labor and employment laws: whether the applicant has any violations of tribal, state, or federal labor, workplace safety and health, or employment laws within the last five years; and/or whether the applicant, its contractors, or subcontractors will commit to union neutrality; and/or whether the applicant, its contractors, or subcontractors will commit to permitting workers to create health and safety committees that management will meet with upon reasonable request; and
c. A plan to recruit and support an appropriately skilled, trained, and credentialed workforce (including by contractors and subcontractors): 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; how the applicant will ensure use of an appropriately credentialed workforce (I.e., satisfying requirements for appropriate and relevant pre-existing occupational training, certifications, and licensure); and/or whether a locally-based workforce will be used. In addition, the plan should include whether there are any partnerships with training providers, unions, or community colleges to support the recruitment and training of the workforce.
*Prevailing rate means that all laborers and mechanics employed by contractors and subcontractors are paid wages at rates not less than those prevailing, as determined by the U.S. Secretary of Labor in accordance with the Davis-Bacon Act (information available at this link: go.usa.gov/xexef). Please refer to the Davis-Bacon Act for all questions pertaining to prevailing wages.
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. An applicant requesting these points must incorporate components from each of the three categories above. Projects that propose to build infrastructure on Tribal Lands must follow Tribal Laws such as the Tribal Employment Rights Ordinances to be in compliance with a ReConnect award, regardless of receiving points under this standard. The Agency reserves the right to adjust award amounts for unforeseen circumstances.
- Tribal Areas (15 points). For applicants that are Tribal Governments and Tribal Government wholly-owned entities and, at least 75 percent of the geographical area of the PFSA(s) is on Tribal Lands, 15 points shall be awarded. For non-tribal governmental entities where at least 50 percent of the geographical area of the PFSA(s) is on Tribal Lands, 10 points shall be awarded. Tribal lands will be analyzed using the GIS layers (Tribal Area (BIA LAR); Tribal Supplemental Area (BIA LAR); and Tribal Statistical Area (BIA)) in the RUS mapping tool. For applicants that are Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) or Alaska Native Tribal Governments where at least 50 percent of the geographical area of the PFSA(s) is on Census Tribal areas in Alaska, 15 points shall be awarded. For non-ANC or non-Alaska Native Tribal Government entities where at least 50 percent of the geographical area of the PFSA(s) is on Census Tribal areas in Alaska, 10 points shall be awarded. Census Tribal areas in Alaska will be analyzed using the GIS layer (Alaska Census Tribal Areas) layer in the RUS mapping tools located at www.usda.gov/reconnect.
- 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). Companies that propose to buy market access, bandwidth, functionality and servicing on a wholesale basis with the intent of reselling their purchased “capacity” on the retail market to businesses and consumers. Applicants that commit to offering wholesale broadband services at rates and terms that are reasonable and nondiscriminatory will receive 10 points.
Additional information on evaluation criteria that contain a GIS layer in the ReConnect Program Service Area Map can be found on the Service Area Map Datasets page.