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Evaluation Criteria

Applicants requesting a 50% loan / 50% grant or 100% grant award under the ReConnect Program are required to submit a scoring sheet that will enable USDA to analyze nine separate special evaluation criteria to score the application. A total of 150 points is possible under each funding category. Applications in the same funding category are scored and ranked against the following special evaluation criteria.

  1. Rurality of Proposed Funded Service Area (25 points). Points will be awarded for serving the least dense rural areas measured by the population of the proposed funded service area per square mile. If multiple service areas are proposed, the density calculation will be made on the combined areas as if they were a single area. For population densities of six or less, 25 points will be awarded. For population densities greater than six, zero points will be awarded. The density calculation is as follows: Total Population of Proposed Funded Service Area / Total Square Miles of Proposed Funded Service Area.
  2. Farms Served (20 points). Applicants will receive one point for every 10 farms served up to a maximum of 20 points. Farms will be counted using the GIS layer located in the RUS mapping tool at: reconnect.usda.gov.
  3. Performance of the Offered Service (20 points). For projects that are proposing to build a network capable of providing at least 100 megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical service (same speeds download and upload) to all premises, 20 points will be awarded. A certification from a licensed Professional Engineer must certify that the proposed system can deliver these speeds to every premises in the proposed funded service area. The certification form, available under Forms & Resources must be signed by a Professional Engineer.
  4. Businesses (15 points). Applicants will receive one point for each business that pre-subscribes for broadband service up to a maximum of 15 points. Applicants must have the owner of the business sign the pre-subscription form, available under Forms & Resources, and submit the pre-subscription forms as part of the application. Points will not be awarded if pre-subscription forms are not included as part of the application to support the number of businesses pre-subscribing for service.
  5. Healthcare Centers (15 points). For every healthcare center served, one point will be awarded up to a maximum of 15 points. Healthcare centers, such as hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies, will be counted using the GIS layer provided in the RUS Mapping Tool. Healthcare centers are defined in the FOA as any facility where healthcare is provided, including but not limited to, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies, and urgent care facilities. For tribal areas not identified in the GIS layer, the tribal leader of the area can submit documentation supporting the number of healthcare facilities and will receive 1 point up to a total of 15 points for every healthcare facility that is identified. A certification that the facilities exist and are being used must be submitted by the tribal leader.
  6. Educational Facilities (15 points). For every educational facility served, one point will be awarded up to a maximum of 15 points. Educational facilities, such as public and private schools, libraries, and technical colleges will be counted using the GIS layer provided in the RUS Mapping Tool. Educational facilities are defined in the FOA as any public or private educational institution that offers a program of college, professional, preparatory, high school, middle school, junior high school, elementary, or kindergarten instruction, or any combination of those facilities. Daycare centers, museums, and libraries are also included. For tribal areas not identified in the GIS layer, the tribal leader of the area can submit documentation supporting the number of educational facilities and will receive 1 point up to a total of 15 points for every educational facility that is identified. A certification that the facilities exist and are being used must be submitted by the tribal leader.
  7. Essential Community Facilities (15 points). For every essential community facility served, one point will be awarded up to a maximum of 15 points. Critical community facilities will be counted using the GIS layer provided in the RUS Mapping Tool. Essential community facilities are defined in the FOA as public facilities that provide community services essential for supporting the safety, health, and well-being of residents, including, but not limited to, emergency response and other public safety activities. For tribal areas not identified in the GIS layer, the tribal leader of the area can submit documentation supporting the number of Essential Community Facilities and will receive 1 point up to a total of 15 points for every Essential Community Facility that is identified. A certification that the facilities exist and are being used must be submitted by the tribal leader.
  8. Opportunity Zones (5 points). For applications that are proposing to provide service in at least part of an area identified as an Opportunity Zone, five points shall be awarded. Opportunity Zones will be analyzed using the GIS layer provided in the RUS Mapping Tool.
  9. State or Tribal Broadband Activity (20 points). For projects that are in a State or tribal area that has a broadband plan that has been updated within the previous five years of the date of publication of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), 10 points will be awarded. An additional five points will be awarded for projects located in states that allow any utilities service provider to deliver broadband service. An additional five points will be awarded for projects located in states that commit to expediting right-of-way environmental permitting.

Additional information on the locations of Critical Community Facilities, Educational Facilities, Healthcare Facilities, and Tribal Lands is available on the ReConnect Program Eligibility Area Map.

The datasets that make up the Eligibility Area Map, are available to download under the Forms and Resources page, Eligible Area Map Datasets.

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