USDA Rural Development ReConnect Program Closes High-Speed Gaps in Rural Communities

USDA Rural Development Staff

The USDA Rural Development ReConnect Program has provided funding to bring high-speed internet to rural communities across America, from Alaska to Texas to Lovelock, Nevada.

The ReConnect Program offers loans, grants, and loan-grant combinations to fund construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service. It is designed to fund the most difficult high-speed projects in the nation—rural and remote communities, that, like Lovelock, have gone unserved for too long.

Closing this digital gap and ensuring rural communities have basic internet access often requires building out middle-mile or last-mile infrastructure. In the case of middle-mile, a community might be surrounded by other high population density areas but be located just outside of the range of the internet backbone, the highway system of fiber. Middle-mile infrastructure would extend that range, ensuring that communities that have been left out of the big picture of broadband expansion are able to share in its benefits.

Last-mile infrastructure, in contrast, can involve communities who are significantly geographically isolated, a problem familiar to rural Nevadans. Utility companies are often unwilling to shoulder the expense of providing internet access to those remote customers, due to the costs of building the necessary infrastructure as well as the lower profit potential. The ReConnect Program provides support for last-mile infrastructure by running fiber directly to rural homes or businesses, ensuring that distance does not exclude families from online education, telemedicine, or communication.

Since the beginning of the Biden-Harris Administration, 193 ReConnect Projects have been funded, laying the groundwork to bring affordable high-speed internet access to over 485,000 people. This includes the $27 million awarded to Reno-based Uprise Fiber to bring high-speed internet access to Lovelock. First announced by Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack in July 2022 during a visit to Lovelock, the project would provide town residents with internet speeds thousands of times faster than what they currently have. The internet service would be made affordable by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs. Lovelock is also located in Nevada’s Rural Partners Network (RPN) Community Networks, empowering rural Nevadans through recurring Community Network Meetings.

Other ReConnect projects in Nevada include a $596,496 grant to Beehive Telephone Co. to provide high-speed internet to the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute located in White Pine County. 

The ReConnect Program is currently in its fourth funding round, and is a key part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Internet for All initiative to connect everyone in America to high-speed internet by 2030.

For more information about the ReConnect Program, please visit the program page online: ReConnect Loan and Grant Program | USDA.

Fiber internet coming to Pershing County

By David Skelton

"It's finally happening!!! Our broadband project is underway! Thank you, UpRise Fiber, Comm NV, USDA and everyone else that has worked on Broadband for the rurals, and Pershing County in particular! So excited to be a part of this project,” Heidi Lusby-Angvick, Pershing County Economic Development Authority Executive Director posted on Facebook this summer. 

Starting east of I80 at Toulon through Lovelock to Rye Patch, Internet provider UpRise Fiber will be tasked with connecting almost 4,900 people, 130 businesses, 22 farms and seven public schools in Lovelock and surrounding Pershing County.

Broadband Connectivity will aid not only economic development in the region but address health and public safety issues as well. Further, it will ensure that homes and businesses have access to affordable, adequate, and reliable high-speed internet.

“We are thrilled that UpRise Fiber was successful in receiving the ReConnect Grant and look forward to next steps,” said Heidi Lusby-Angvick, Pershing County Economic Development Authority Executive Director and WNDD Vice President.