USDA Releases Map Showing Areas Approved for ReConnect

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says its ReConnect Program is the agency’s largest effort aimed at filling gaps in broadband coverage areas in unserved and underserved rural areas. The program was created on a pilot basis in 2018, and appropriated more than $5 billion between fiscal years 2018 and 2023. Its grants and loans provide funds that help the private sector provide broadband service to rural areas, which otherwise may not be profitable to reach.

ReConnect reached an estimated 21 percent of the eligible rural population in its first two funding rounds, which involved applications submitted in FY 2019 and 2020, according to a USDA press release. Applicants had to propose providing a minimum broadband speed (25 Mbps/3 Mbps) to all residences, businesses, and farms in the areas during the first two funding rounds. 

Most applicants were small telecommunications companies or cooperatives. Researchers with the USDA’s Economic Research Service examined proposed and approved projects from the applications submitted in fiscal years 2019 and 2020 to find that about 57 percent of proposed projects were funded.

The most common reasons that applications were not approved were that broadband service was already available in the proposed service area, lack of financial feasibility of the proposal, and missing or insufficient information, according to the USDA.

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