Welcome to The Federal Corner. Federal agencies disburse billions of dollars in broadband funds each year through multiple agencies and programs. Identifying and educating our state’s broadband stakeholders about these federal programs is essential to Colorado’s ability to secure our “unfair share” of federal funds in order to facilitate broadband access for all Coloradans. In support of Colorado stakeholders’ efforts to secure federal funding, The Federal Corner will provide summary information and links to federal initiatives affecting broadband funding policy and programs.
United States Department of Agriculture
See below for the highlights and updates about a few of the USDA connectivity programs. Visit the USDA website for information on all broadband and telecom programs.
On September 24, 2020, the USDA announced they will begin accepting Community Connect Grant Program applications from eligible applicants for proposed funding areas that do not have access to broadband speeds of at least 10/1Mbps. The RUS will give priority to rural economically-challenged communities that demonstrate the greatest need for broadband services. Applications are due by 11:59 EST, December 23, 2020.
The Community Connect grant has an award ceiling of $3,000,000 and an award floor of $100,000 for this funding cycle, requiring a 15% match. A key change in the program is that the USDA will no longer consider the availability of cellular service, as a disqualifier, in the proposed funding service area.
Eligible entities include public and state controlled institutions of higher education, city or township governments, special district governments, nonprofits institutions of higher education, Native American tribal organizations (other than Federally recognized tribal governments) and any other legal entity, including cooperatives, private corporations, or limited liability companies organized on a for-profit or not-for-profit basis. The Funding Opportunity Announcement can be found at this link.
The USDA held Community Connect webinars:
ReConnect is the USDA’s newest grant, loan, and combination grant/loan program supporting broadband access to rural homes, farms and businesses.
The USDA will commit up to $650 million in Round 2 ReConnect funding (includes $100 million from CARES Act funding). Three Colorado broadband providers applied for $25.1M in USDA ReConnect Round 2 100% Grant funds. The ReConnect 100% Grant product requires a 25% match, ($8.4M) making the total project cost $33.5M for the proposed broadband projects. If funded, these projects will provide FTTH to over 3,112 locations in western Colorado.
On October 13, 2020, Emery Telecommunications & Video Inc. (Emery) was awarded a $6.3 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network to connect 1,638 people, 91 farms, 52 businesses, three fire stations and two post offices in Dolores, San Miguel and Montezuma counties in Colorado. Emery will provide a $2.1 million match making the total project cost $8.4 million.
On October 29, 2020, Yampa Valley Electric Association (YVEA) was awarded a $6 million ReConnect grant to provide gigabit FTTP, expanding northwestern Colorado’s rural broadband access to 264 homes, farms and businesses located in Routt, Moffat and Eagle counties in Colorado. YVEA will provide a $2 million match making the total project cost $8 million.
Awards will be posted on the USDA ReConnect Program webpage.
For more information about ReConnect and Colorado, visit our Colorado ReConnect webpage.
Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant (DLT)
On April, 3, the USDA announced that it would make $72M available to help rural residents gain access to health care and educational opportunities by opening a second application window for funding under the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program. The DLT grant application window closed July 13, 2020.
On October, 7, 2020, the Colorado Department of Corrections was awarded $985,455 to provide telemedicine services to 17 correction facilities in 12 counties. The project will provide medical assessments, wellness visits, treatment follow-up, remote patient monitoring, mental health screenings, case management services, advanced care planning, and health risk assessment. This award will allow the Colorado Department of Corrections to improve health care by providing access to more health care, preventive medicine, and access medical specialists, while reducing prisoner transport and related security management costs.
Federal Communications Commission
Administered by Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC)
- E-rate: Ensuring that schools and libraries across the U.S. are connected to information and resources through the internet
- Rural Health Care: Supporting healthcare facilities in bringing world class medical care to rural areas through increased connectivity
- Lifeline: Lowering the monthly cost of phone or internet service
- High Cost: Expanding networks in underserved areas so that all people in the U.S. have access to affordable voice and broadband
Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF)
- The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is the Commission’s next step in bridging the digital divide to efficiently fund the deployment of broadband networks in rural America. Through a two-phase reverse auction mechanism, the FCC will direct up to $20.4 billion over ten years to finance up to gigabit speed broadband networks in unserved rural areas, connecting millions of American homes and businesses to digital opportunity.
The Phase I auction began on October 29, 2020, targeting $16 billion to deploy networks to serve up to 10.25 million homes and businesses in census blocks designated as entirely unserved by the FCC, lacking voice and broadband with download speeds of at least 25 Mbps.
For more information about RDOF in Colorado, visit our Colorado RDOF webpage.
The FCC continues to make progress on a number of proceedings. Below is a brief description of the Report and Orders (R&Os) and Notices of Proposed Rulemakings (NPRMs) and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Further Notice) with links containing more information.