USDA Announces New Technical Assistance Funding for Rural Broadband Projects
Today, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new Broadband Technical Assistance (BTA) program that will offer $20 million in funding to support broadband training, development, and expansion in rural communities as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
The application window for this new program will open on Wednesday, April 19, 2023.
BTA, which is funded by the IIJA, will allocate the $20 million in new funds in the following manner:
- $7.5 million for technical assistance providers (with a minimum award amount of $50,000 and a maximum award amount of $1 million);
- $7.5 million for technical assistance recipients (with a minimum award amount of $50,000 and a maximum award amount of $250,000); and
- $5 million for projects that support cooperatives (with a minimum award amount of $50,000 and a maximum award amount of $1 million).
Eligible applicants include corporations, Tribal entities, state and local governments, territories, nonprofits, and cooperatives.
Further, eligible projects must promote broadband expansion in a rural community, which is defined as “any area not located in a city, town, or incorporated area with a population greater than 20,000, or an urbanized area next to a city, town or incorporated area with a population greater than 50,000 people.”
It should be noted that BTA’s eligibility criteria do not include a cost-sharing or matching requirement.
Recipients are permitted to use funds for project planning and community engagement, operations, financial sustainability, environmental compliance, construction and engineering planning, accessing federal resources, and data collection and reporting. In particular, the USDA cites the following cases as examples of eligible projects:
- Helping recipients to identify broadband resources and planning for the delivery of broadband services;
- Identifying public and private resources to finance broadband facilities;
- Preparing studies, reports, and surveys, either as necessary support for broadband services or to request financial assistance to develop broadband facilities; and
- Improving the management and operations of broadband facilities.
In addition, applicants must verify that potential project areas are located completely within one or more targeted communities, obtain federal SAM.gov and Grants.gov registrations, and submit a narrative that includes a work plan, description of organizational and technical capacity, rurality, and economic need. Applicants must also prepare budget worksheets and SF-424 forms.
How BTA Funding Could Benefit Your Company
At present, service providers await the billions of dollars of grant funding that will be distributed over the next couple of years and will allow for the building and expansion of broadband networks across the country.
In the interim, however, the BTA funds could provide your company with the necessary resources to begin identifying future broadband deployment areas through feasibility studies, working on financial forecasting for broadband sustainability, and preparing Broadband Data Collection (BDC) and state mapping filings, performing compliance reporting, and preparing surveys or market reports to identify underserved and unserved areas.
Please note that JSI will provide all interested parties with the BTA application deadline as soon as the USDA publishes that deadline information on its Grants.gov site.
If your company needs assistance with preparing its BTA application or with the funding-feasibility planning unrelated to this grant, then JSI’s team of consultants can provide you with a complete range of services and support.
If you would like to discuss this matter further with our team, then simply click the button below to connect with us today by email.