Capito seeks extension for broadband program filing

On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting an extension in the filing period for the USDA's new ReConnect Program citing the recent government shutdown. 

The ReConnect Program is a $600 million loan and grant program aimed at assisting the construction of broadband infrastructure in the rural areas of the United States. 

“The ReConnect program is a critical new tool that will help achieve our shared goal of prioritizing rural broadband and closing the digital divide,” Capito wrote in the letter. “As you know, on Feb. 22, 2019, the USDA will finalize the application window for applicants to the ReConnect program. Unfortunately, due to the recent government shutdown, agencies have not been working at full capacity.” 

Capito argues in the letter that the additional month of time will allow interested parties to gather as much information about the program as possible. 

“Timely technical assistance webinars and workshops are imperative to informing potential applicants, especially for a new pilot program,” Capito wrote. “As a result, I urge the USDA to extend all deadlines for ReConnect by one month. An extension will help ensure applicants are receiving the assistance they need and the awards are being given to projects that achieve the program’s goals.” 

According to Capito, only one of the seven planned ReConnect webinars has taken place because of the shutdown. 

The program is available to multiple types of entities that are working in communities with fewer than 20,000 residents where broadband access is unavailable or insufficient. 

More information about the program can be found at reconnect.usda.gov.

By:  Matt Combs
Source: Beckley Register-Herald