In December 2018, USDA announced the “ReConnect Program,” which will support broadband with $600 Million in grants and loans for unserved rural areas that do not currently have sufficient access to broadband. To be eligible for the ReConnect Program, applicants must provide broadband service to eligible rural areas with a population of 20,000 or fewer. To locate areas in Iowa that Federal law designates as “rural,” please review the Mapping Tool at http://reconnect.usda.gov. That communication can be viewed here.
The USDA will award applications up to 150 points for a number of different criteria. With the Governor’s signed letter articulating Iowa’s qualifications, applicants will be awarded an extra 20 scoring points on their application by the USDA – giving them a greater chance of approval by the USDA. Read a sample letter from Gov. Reynolds here.
“Improving broadband internet access continues to be a top priority because it allows our rural communities to thrive. The Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Initiative along with our focus on broadband internet will put Iowa on the map as a hub for rural connectivity,” said Gov. Reynolds. “By leveraging state, federal, and private resources, we can open the door for even more innovation and breakthroughs.”
“Making broadband a top priority not only means leveraging state dollars, but actively pursuing federal grants that can be used for our benefit,” said Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg. “Through the Governor’s action today and through our focus on empowering rural Iowa, we are taking concrete steps to connect communities by giving these applicants a significant advantage when applying for federal funding.”
To complete an application for USDA ReConnect and maximize your scoring potential, you must submit a map showing the U.S. Census Blocks in which you are proposing to provide service. This map will be Certified and returned by the Office of the Chief Information Officer, with a letter from the Governor.