The USDA just opened an application window for its Community Connect grants—a small but great program that “serves rural communities where broadband service is least likely to be available, but where it can make a tremendous difference in the quality of life for citizens.”
Community Connect awards up to $3 million can be given to both public and private entities; eligible applicants include local governments, Native American tribes, and community nonprofits. The program focuses on targeted deployment to completely unserved, very low income areas.
While Community Connect has a fairly broad mission, funding is geographically limited to a single community within a population less than 20,000 that does not currently have broadband (as determined by the FCC National Broadband Map). Grants cannot duplicate any existing broadband services, nor can applicants charge for services to any critical community facilities for at least two years from the grant award. Priority is given to areas that demonstrate “economic necessity.” The grant process is very selective, with awards given to only 10 percent of applicants.
Applications are due February 17, 2015; detailed information is available on the USDA’s website. We would be happy to discuss this opportunity with any public or nonprofit entity that is interested in applying. Please feel free to contact us.