U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has invested billions of dollars in rural telecommunications infrastructure over the past several decades. The Department recently opened Round 4 of funding under the ReConnect Program, with more than $1 billion in grants, loans, and grant/loan combinations at stake. USDA began accepting applications for ReConnect Round 4 on September 6 and the deadline for submissions is November 2.
With this funding, broadband service providers (BSPs) have an unprecedented opportunity to build the high-speed broadband networks that will connect rural communities. The essential services you deliver will improve people’s daily lives, foster economic vitality, and benefit generations to come.
Helping Broadband Service Providers Navigate the Complex Funding Process
Although the opportunity is enormous, navigating the application process for ReConnect can seem daunting, particularly for new service providers. And for BSPs that have applied in previous rounds, there are several updates in Round 4 of ReConnect program that can impact applications.
Calix is here to help. As you prepare to submit your applications, here are five tips to increase the probability you’ll get a piece of the $1 billion ReConnect Round 4 pie.
- Get up to speed on the updates in USDA ReConnect Round 4. USDA made several improvements to the ReConnect Program to increase availability of funding in rural areas. For instance, applicants can serve areas where at least 50 percent of households lack sufficient access to high-speed internet, down from 90 percent in Round 3. USDA is also waiving the matching fund requirements for Alaska Native Corporations, Tribal Governments, Colonias, persistent poverty areas, and socially vulnerable communities. Be aware of new requirements and take advantage of expanded funding opportunities.
- Review the Rural Utility Service (RUS) ReConnect map for insight on previous awards and current eligibility. Generally, the RUS will not fund more than one project serving a given geographic area, nor will they fund a project in an area that has previously received financial assistance. There are exceptions, but it’s important to understand the funding landscape before you apply.
- Check your Proposed Funded Service Area (PFSA) against key evaluation criteria. For every PFSA, you’ll want to check rurality as well as existing service levels. You’ll also want to consider aspects such as the economic need of the community. Understanding these issues will help you maximize the points you score for your application and increase your chances for success.
- Identify and confirm all eligible capital expenditures. You will need to detail all capital investments for your proposed broadband project, including equipment and facilities. Note that operating costs are not eligible for funding. Make sure that your Capital Investment Workbook (CIW) captures the expected costs of the project, including reasonable cost increases, and accounts for contingencies such as potential construction issues or environmental costs.
- Line up financial documentation—including Irrevocable Letters of Credit (ILOC)—in advance. You can speed up the application process by reviewing the financial requirements and compiling the necessary documents as early as possible. You’ll want to have audited financial statements, documentation from federal or state agencies that have authorized broadband funding, and details on existing loans and/or other funding. It’s particularly important to contact your bank now to secure ILOCs, as they are required for nearly all federal funds.
Completing applications for ReConnect funding can be a complicated and time-consuming process, but if you take the right steps to prepare, you’ll maximize your chances of securing this unprecedented funding.
Watch the webinar replay “ReConnect Round 4 Is Here. Get Your Piece of a $1 Billion Pie” or visit the Calix ReConnect Funding page for expert guidance on securing broadband funding.