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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, as we collect new questions.

To preview a portion of current questions and answers, click the 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:

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ReConnect Program Overview

 
  • A: This program is being offered to build improved broadband e-Connectivity infrastructure for as many rural families, businesses, farms, schools and health care facilities as possible so that they can succeed in the 21st Century.
  • A: The law allows USDA to offer applicants loans and grants to build infrastructure and install equipment that provides modern, reliable, high-speed Internet service in rural America. Project eligibility specifications are available at .
  • A: The ReConnect Program funding was provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 and is a pilot program. The current FOA offers a portion of that funding. This means that there are plans for additional rounds of funding. In addition, appropriations for Fiscal Year 2019 included an additional $550 million dollars for the program.


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Eligibility

 
  • A: Rural telephone and broadband service providers, rural electric cooperatives, national and regional private companies, nonprofit organizations, tribal entities, and State and local government instrumentalities are likely to be awarded funds, but eligibility depends on State and local laws. An applicant must be able to supply retail broadband to customers. The only ineligible entities are sole proprietors and limited partnerships. Eligible entities are listed in the FOA released December 14, 2018.
  • A: Open Access Networks are eligible for funding. The applicant must provide firm commitments from the retail providers to purchase or lease sufficient services to demonstrate both the financial feasibility of the project and that service will be available to every premises in the Proposed Funded Service Area.
  • A: Yes, fixed wireless providers may apply for ReConnect Program funding if they meet all of the eligibility requirements.


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Application

 
  • A: Yes, USDA is currently developing the application guide. It will be available on April 23, 2019 when the application system goes live. Additionally, the application system will include the capability to prompt the applicant with tool tips explaining parts of the application process.
  • A: Letters of support can be addressed to a number of different people. They can be addressed to the Secretary of Agriculture, the Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development, the RUS Administrator or the Assistant Administrator for the Telecommunications Program.
  • A: An applicant will have to go through the ReConnect login process. If an applicant has a level II e-Auth, they should be able to get into the application process and the application process will walk them through the process of registering for the ReConnect system.


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Mapping

 
  • A: The Agency does not have a mapping tool that will definitively indicate whether or not a proposed funded service area has sufficient access to broadband. However, a Mapping Tool is available at that very clearly displays certain areas that are ineligible for funding. A potential applicant must do their own due diligence in making the determination that households in the proposed funded service area do not have sufficient access to broadband. USDA will conduct an on-site evaluation of the area to make the final determination.
  • A: There is no formal appeal process regarding the classification of ineligible areas. A potential applicant can submit the information that demonstrates an area that is designated as ineligible may actually be eligible through the Contact Us page on the ReConnect website: . USDA will evaluate this information and make a final determination.
  • A: Eligible Area Map datasets are available to download as a zip file (including ESRI Shapefiles) on the ReConnect Program website at skolateptin.info/reconnect/eligible-area-map-datasets. These datasets include evaluation and eligibility criteria. Descriptions of each data set are available on the website.

    Evaluation Criteria Datasets

    • Critical Care Facilities
    • Educational Facilities
    • Healthcare Facilities
    • Tribal Lands

    Eligibility Criteria Datasets

    • CAF II – Auction 903 Winners
    • Non-Rural Areas
    • Pending Applications
    • Protected Broadband Borrower Service Areas

    USDA uses the Decennial Census Data for population, which includes the density calculation. The dataset is not included for download on the ReConnect website, but is publicly available through Census at .



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Financial Requirements

 
  • A: Other federal funds cannot be used for matching funds unless there is specific statutory language in the other program that allows for this. Other federal funds can be used to support the overall project, but evidence must be included in the application that demonstrates that the funds have already been received and are allowed to be used for the project.
  • A: $25 million is the upper limit of a 100% grant product. For a 100% grant, the match must be 25% of the total project cost. $50 million is the upper limit for 100% loan and 50/50 loan-grant combination products. For the combination product, the amounts awarded for loan and grant will always be equal. An applicant can only submit one application under this FOA.
  • A: An amortization period for a loan will be based on the composite economic life of facilities funded three years. A proposal leaning more towards electronic elements may have a shorter term of 12 to 13 years. An application that proposes more cable facilities will probably have a term closer to 18, 20, or 21 years. It depends on the facilities proposed for funding. Applicants will propose an amortization period for feasibility purposes and USDA will analyze the proposal to determine the appropriate amortization period. Interest rates for the 100% loan will be set at a flat 2% and interest rates for the combination loan/grant will be set at the Treasury rate for comparable amortization periods at the time of each advance.


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Engineering Requirements

 
  • A: The awardee will have five years to complete the buildout from the time funds are first made available to the awardee.
  • A: Funds may be used for the construction or improvement of facilities, including buildings and land, required to provide broadband service. All costs must be reasonable, allocable, and necessary to the project. Operating expenses are not allowed.
  • A: The engineer must have a professional engineering license issued by at least one of the States where the project is proposed to be constructed.


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Environmental Requirements

 
  • A: An applicant must provide an environmental analysis of all proposed funded service areas within an application to be eligible. A recent environmental study could be used to satisfy or support the environmental information requested; but additional information will be required for areas not supported by the existing study at the time of the application. You should also update any changes since the current study, so all current environmental information is represented within the application.
  • A: Applicants will be required to draw cable routes and other facility locations using the Construction Mapping tool in the ReConnect 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. The application guide will address the specific requirements for the environmental portion of the submittal and will be available when the application system goes live.


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Technical Assistance

 
  • A: Yes, selected presentations will be posted to the ReConnect website at and available for download.
  • A: USDA will hold technical assistance webinars that will be recorded and available for viewing on demand after their initial broadcast. Additionally, six regional in-person workshops will be held across the country. Webinar and workshop dates and times, and additional technical assistance is available through .
  • A: The point system is laid out in the FOA that was published in December. The Evaluation Criteria can also be found at under Scoring Criteria. Additional explanations will be provided in the application guide that will be published prior to the start of accepting applications.


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Tribal

 
  • A: The ReConnect program does not have specific requirements regarding this item. The program requires that the applicant can legally own and operate a telecommunication business. You will need to ask this question either to the FCC and/or the state regulatory body governing telecommunications in that state.
  • A: If a project is wholly located in a tribal area, a tribal broadband plan may be substituted for a State broadband plan to gain points for competitive applications. To receive points for a tribal broadband plan, the applicant must submit a letter from a tribal leader certifying that the tribal broadband plan has been updated within five years of the date the ReConnect Funding Opportunity Announcement was published.
  • A: An applicant may receive Evaluation Criteria points for these facilities by including a description in the application, in either the Executive Summary section or by uploading a separate document with a description, as a part of the application. Applicants must also obtain a certification from the Tribal leader of the associated lands that these facilities are being used for the purpose described in the application.


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