This page contains answers to questions submitted by interested ReConnect Program applicants during webinars, regional workshops, and via the Contact Us form on the ReConnect website. The questions and answers are organized by topic of interest and are updated on a regular basis, as we collect new questions.
To preview a portion of current questions and answers, click the plus sign (+) next to your topic of interest. You may also download the full version of the Frequently Asked Questions document below which includes all available Q&As:
Download Full Version of FAQs (PDF, 229 KB)
ReConnect Program Overview
A: The ReConnect Program is a broadband pilot program that offers federal loans, grants, and combinations thereof to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas. ReConnect loans and grants provide funds for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service to rural areas without sufficient broadband access, defined as 10 Mbps) downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.
A: USDA will offer loans and grants to build infrastructure and install equipment that provides modern, reliable, high-speed Internet service in rural America. The ReConnect program offers three products: 100% Loans, 50% Loan-50% Grant combinations, and 100% Grants. More information about the three products can be found on the ReConnect website at reconnect.usda.gov.
A: Yes, there were a number of changes in the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) published on December 12, 2019. Here is a high-level summary of the changes, however, RUS encourages you to review the FOA closely as you prepare to apply. Those changes include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The application window for the three categories of funding will be from January 31, 2020 through March 16, 2020.
- Definitions have been added for healthcare and educational facilities and the name for critical community facilities has been changed to essential community facilities.
- For 100 percent grants, 90 percent of the proposed funded service area cannot have sufficient access to broadband, as opposed to 100 percent under round one.
- The requirement for two years of unqualified, comparative, audited financial statements has been changed to unqualified, comparative, audited financial statements for the previous year from the date the application has been submitted.
- The requirement that applicants must submit certifications from the appropriate state or tribal broadband office has been changed to a voluntary request.
- Pre-application expenses that were incurred for round one, but benefit an application for round two, may be funded up to the 5 percent of the total award in round 2.
- Under certain conditions a subsidiary can use the unqualified, comparative, audited statements to meet certain eligibility requirements.
- The scoring criteria for farms has been changed. Applicants will receive 1 point for every 10 farms served up to a maximum of 20 points. Farms will be counted using 2017 Census of Agriculture data.
- Tribal leaders can submit documentation supporting scoring points for the number of healthcare, educational and essential community facilities.
- The time period incumbent service providers will be able to challenge if sufficient service is present in an applicant’s proposed funded service area is being increased from 30 days to 45 days
A: As defined in the 2019 FOA (published on December 12, 2019), the following entities are eligible to apply for assistance:
- States, local governments, or any agency, subdivision, instrumentality, or political subdivision thereof
- A territory or possession of the United States
- An Indian tribe (as defined in section 4 of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. 450b))
- Non-profit entities
- For-profit corporations
- Limited liability companies;
- Cooperative or mutual organizations
Individuals and legal partnerships are not eligible for ReConnect funding. In addition, co-applicants are not eligible. If two entities would like to partner with each other in delivering broadband to areas without sufficient access, then one entity must take the lead on submitting an application. In this case, intercompany agreements can be used to account for revenues and expenses on the applicant’s financial projections.
A: Individuals are not eligible for funding under this program.
A: Yes. An entity may submit only one application. Although the online application system will allow you to create multiple applications, you can only submit one.
A: To access the application system, Applicants will need a USDA Level II eAuthentication ID, which can be obtained at www.eauth.usda.gov. All Online Application System users are required to have a Level II eAuth.
Additionally, to file an application Applicants will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN), obtainable at tax-irs-ein.com; a Dun & Bradstreet Number (DUNS Number), obtainable at fedgov.dnb.com/webform; a current active registration in the System for Award Management (SAM), obtainable at sam.gov/sam; and, a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code, obtainable in SAM.
A: Begin by reviewing the 2019 Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), published on December 12, 2019 for current program and eligibility requirements. The FOA and other resources, including program information, fact sheets, and technical assistance materials are available on the ReConnect website at reconnect.usda.gov. All applications must be submitted through the RUS Online Application System, which will open on January 31, 2020 and close on March 16, 2020 at 6:00 PM Eastern time.
After the application window has opened, applicants can create an account in the application system by submitting an Authorized Representative Request (ARR). Applicants cannot begin working on an application in the system until the ARR is approved. Keep in mind, ARR approval takes approximately two business days.
A: Yes, consultants may be granted access to the Online Application System by an applicant. Once assigned the role of “Consultant” within the system, an individual consultant can access multiple applications within the system. Please note, all individuals who log into the system must have a USDA Level II eAuthentication credential. Additionally, Consultants must NOT enter the portal until they receive an email indicating that the applicant has assigned them a consultant role in the system. Otherwise, these individuals risk being locked out of the portal. If locked out of the portal, submit a Help Desk ticket through the ReConnect website at www.usda.gov/reconnect/contact-us.
A: To be eligible for ReConnect Funding, a Proposed Funded Service Area (PFSA) must be (1) rural and (2) lack sufficient access to broadband service:
- According to the 2019 FOA, a rural area is any area which is not located within: (1) A city, town, or incorporated area that has a population of greater than 20,000 inhabitants; or (2) an urbanized area contiguous and adjacent to a city or town that has a population of greater than 50,000 inhabitants.
- Sufficient access to broadband is defined in the FOA as any rural area in which households have fixed, terrestrial broadband service delivering at least 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. Mobile and satellite services will not be considered in making the determination of sufficient access to broadband. Note, for all funding categories, 90% of households within each proposed service area must lack sufficient access to broadband.
In addition, a PFSA may not include areas that have been previously funded by other RUS telecommunications programs, or areas covered by CAF II Auction 903 winners. The RUS Mapping Tool shows all ineligible areas and the FOA has detailed information on all eligibility requirements. Ineligible areas include:
- Non-rural areas
- Overlapping service areas
- Areas where there are pending applications for USDA Rural Utilities Service programs
- Protected Broadband Borrowers
- CAF II Auction 903 Winners
A: Yes, an applicant must submit an unqualified, comparative, audited financial statement for the previous year from the date the application is submitted. Additionally, a subsidiary can use the consolidated financial statements of a parent organization as long as the parent fully guarantees the loan, or in the case of a grant, guarantees construction will be completed.
A: Applicants will be required to draw routes and other site locations using the construction map in the RUS Online Application System. The application system will also require that applicants provide specific information related to routes and sites, including the completion of Environmental Questionnaires (EQs). The Application Guide will address the specific requirements for the environmental portion of the application and will be available when the application system goes live.
A: You can submit your ReConnect program questions by using the Contact Us Form located at www.usda.gov/reconnect/contact-us. USDA also encourages you to reach out to your General Field Representative (GFR) or State office for more guidance related to your specific community. A list of GFRs, their service areas, and their contact information can be found here: www.rd.usda.gov/contact-us/telecom-gfr/all; State office contact information can be found here: www.rd.usda.gov/contact-us/state-offices.
A: USDA will hold regional workshops across the country in early 2020 to assist applicants with preparing their ReConnect applications; however, dates and locations have not yet been finalized. USDA will also conduct a series of webinars addressing specific ReConnect topics, and will announce dates for these events in the coming weeks.
You can register to receive updates about the program, including upcoming workshops and webinars, on the ReConnect website by clicking the "Stay up to date" link toward the bottom of the home page at reconnect.usda.gov. Additional resources can be found on the ReConnect website. USDA will post select presentations and webinar recordings, updated FAQs, and other technical assistance materials at reconnect.usda.gov.