USDA Expands Eligibility for $1.15 Billion in Rural Broadband Funds Posted on October 28, 2021October 28, 2021 by Samantha Jacobson By Samantha Jacobson, Market Specialist – Communications The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced the third round of its ReConnect Program, expanding access to broadband deployment loans and grants. Even if you didn’t qualify for the program before, you may qualify now. What funding is available? $1.15 billion in funding will be available in this round of USDA Rural Development’s ReConnect Program. According to the USDA, this number includes: $200 million in ReConnect Program loans $250 million in loan/grant combinations $350 million in grants with a 25% matching requirement $350 million in grants with no matching requirement for projects in tribal and socially vulnerable communities Key eligibility changes With this round of ReConnect Program funding, the USDA is expanding eligibility to areas with faster broadband speeds. In addition to other requirements, you are now eligible to apply if you meet these qualifications: Your service area does not currently have broadband at speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) for download and 20 Mbps per second for upload. You commit to building facilities capable of providing broadband service at speeds of 100 Mbps per second for download and upload to every location in its proposed service area. The USDA will also prioritize areas with at least 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed. For the full list of eligibility requirements, see the program overview. How to apply Starting November 24, the USDA will begin accepting applications on the USDA ReConnect Program webpage. Plan ahead If you plan to deploy broadband, begin talking with your Border States Account Manager about your material needs. With the current supply chain challenges, planning is more important than ever.