To be eligible to receive ReConnect Program funds, the proposed service area must meet various criteria. First, a proposed service area must contain at least 90 percent (%) of the households currently lack sufficient broadband access. Sufficient access to broadband means any rural area that has fixed, terrestrial broadband service delivering at least 10 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. For eligibility purposes, if an applicant is applying for multiple proposed funded service areas, each service area will be evaluated on a stand-alone basis.
A proposed funded service must also be located in a rural area. A rural area is any area that is not located in a city, town, or incorporated area that has a population of greater than 20,000 inhabitants or an urbanized area contiguous and adjacent to a city or town that has a population of greater than 50,000 inhabitants.
Additional service area eligibility requirements include the following:
- Overlapping Service Areas. The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) will not fund more than one project that serves any one given geographic area. If RUS receives applications that contain overlapping service areas, these procedures will be followed to review such applications:
- Determine the overlap to be so insignificant that no agency action is necessary;
- Request one or more applications to be revised to eliminate the overlapping territory;
- Choose one application over another given the amount of assistance requested, the number of awards already chosen in the area or State, or the need for the project in the specific area due to other factors; or
- Simply choose the project that scores higher or in the judgement of the agency is more financially feasible.
- Prior Funded Service Areas. The RUS will not fund a project proposing to serve an area that has already received financial assistance for broadband service as defined in this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA):
- RUS Broadband Loans. Service areas of borrowers that have RUS broadband loans are ineligible for applicants under this FOA. A RUS broadband borrower means any entity that has received a Telecommunications Infrastructure loan, Farm Bill Broadband loan or Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) loan any time after the beginning of Fiscal Year 2000. Only RUS broadband borrowers that received funding to provide service in an area where the borrower is not currently delivering at least 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream would be eligible to apply for funding for these service areas if they have not defaulted on, and have materially complied with, in the sole discretion of RUS, their prior broadband loan requirements.
- RUS Community Connect Grants. Service areas that received grants under the RUS Community Connect Grant Program are eligible if they do not have sufficient broadband access, except for those grants still under construction.
- RUS BIP Grants. Service areas that received a 100% grant under the RUS BIP are eligible if the BIP grantee is not already delivering at least 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream broadband service. However, if the applicant is the same BIP grantee, then the applicant may only request a 100% loan under this FOA.
- State-funded Areas. Areas that have received State funding to deploy broadband at a speed of at least 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream are not eligible areas under this FOA. Applicants must provide a map of the proposed funded service area to the appropriate State government office and the State government office must certify whether funds have or have not been allotted for the area.
- Applicants must submit the map and the State certification as part of the application for funding. For applications that are proposing to provide service in multiple States, a map and certification will be required for each State. If the map(s) and certification(s) are not submitted, RUS may reject the application.
- CAF II - Auction 903 Winners. Funding for service areas of CAF II recipients can only be requested by the entity that is receiving the CAF II support, and project sponsors that received CAF II award may only apply for funds that serve those areas from the 100% Loan funding category under the ReConnect Program.
Additional information on the locations of Prior Funded Service Areas, CAF II - Auction 903 Winners, and Non-Rural Areas 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.