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Frequently Asked Questions

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. To view answers, click the plus sign (+) next to your question of interest.

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ReConnect Program Overview

 
  • A: The ReConnect Program 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, as defined in the FOA published on October 25, 2021.
  • A: USDA offers loans, grants, and loan-grant combinations to build infrastructure and install equipment that provides modern, reliable, high-speed Internet service in rural America. The amount and types of funds available for assistance can be found in the FOA published on October 25, 2021.


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Eligibility

 
  • A: As defined in the Rural eConnectivity Program Regulation (published on February 26, 2021), the following entities are eligible to apply for assistance:

    • Corporations
    • Limited liability companies and limited liability partnerships
    • Cooperative or mutual organizations
    • States or local governments, including 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))

    Individuals and legal general partnerships formed with individuals 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 under any funding window. Although the online application system will allow you to create multiple applications, you can only submit one.


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Mapping

 
  • 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:

    1. According to the ReConnect Regulation, 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.
    2. Sufficient access to broadband, as defined in the FOA published on October 25, 2021, is 100 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 20 Mbps upstream (100/20). Mobile/cellular 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. Additional eligibility requirements will be determined by the latest FOA. Ineligible areas include:

    • Overlapping service areas
    • Areas where there are pending applications for USDA Rural Utilities Service programs
    • Protected RUS Broadband Borrowers
    • Service areas that received federal grant funds to construct facilities to provide broadband service at the level defined in the latest FOA
  • A: For the ReConnect Program only, RUS broadband loan means any loan that has been approved or is currently under review by RUS after the beginning of Fiscal Year 2000 in the Telecommunications Infrastructure Program, Farm Bill Broadband Program, Broadband Initiatives Program or the ReConnect Program. Loans that were rescinded or defaulted on, or the terms and conditions of which were not met, are not included in this definition. RUS electric loans are also not included in this definition. It should also be noted that if the project funded by such a “Broadband Loan” does not provide sufficient access to broadband as defined in the Funding Opportunity Announcement published on October 25, 2021 then those areas covered by the broadband loan are open to any provider wishing to submit an application.



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Financial Requirements

 
  • A: Yes, there are three options for an applicant regarding financial statements:
    1. An applicant must submit unqualified, comparative, audited financial statements for the previous year from the date the application has been submitted.
    2. If an applicant does not have completed audited financial statements from the previous year, then the applicant can submit the two previous unqualified audits that have been completed.
    3. An applicant can use the consolidated audit of its parent as long as the parent fully guarantees the loan, or in the case of a grant, guarantees that construction will be completed as approved in the application or will repay the grant to RUS. If an applicant has more than one parent, then each parent’s audits must be submitted, and each parent must fully guarantee the award.

    Note: For governmental entities, financial statements must be accompanied with certifications as to unrestricted cash that may be available on a yearly basis to the applicant.

  • A: A subsidiary may use consolidated financials of the parent company if the parent fully guarantees the loan, or in the case of a grant, guarantees construction will be completed.


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Environmental Requirements

 
  • A: All Applicants must follow the requirements in 7 CFR part 1970. Project maps or site plans are required to identify cable routes, building locations, tower locations, equipment locations, and all structures and facilities that are part of the project.

    Applicants will be required to draw sites and routes using the Construction Mapping Tool in the ReConnect Online Application System. The Application System will also require that applicants provide specific information on the cable routes and facility locations including the completion of Environmental Questionnaires (EQs). All project activities, specific project locations, and supporting documentation must be provided to assist the Agency’s analysis of potential impacts on the environment, including whether a categorical exclusion applies to an area in a proposed project.

    The Application Guide will address the specific requirements for the environmental portion of the application and will walk the applicant through the process in the application portal.



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Evaluation Criteria

 
  • A: Applications for the 50/50 loan-grant combination, 100 % grants, and 100% grants for Tribal Governments and Socially Vulnerable Communities will be scored and ranked against the following criteria:

    Evaluation Criteria

    Points

    Rurality of the Proposed Service Area

    25

    Level of Existing Service

    25

    Economic Need of the Community

    20

    Affordability

    20

    Labor Standards

    20

    Tribal Lands

    15

    Local Governments, Non-Profits, and Cooperatives

    15

    Socially Vulnerable Communities

    15

    Net Neutrality

    10

    Wholesale Broadband Services

    10

    Total: 175 Points

    Please consult the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) published on October 25, 2021 for more details on the criteria.



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Technical Assistance

 
  • 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 conduct a series of webinars addressing specific ReConnect topics. 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.


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