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The Federal government offers technical assistance and a myriad of funding supports for entities seeking to deploy FTTH. The requirements for each program are very specific and some programs depend upon the agency’s focus over a particular planning period. Good places to start are the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration which provides both grants and assistance with scoping out proposals and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Assistance - which provides the same plus loans for rural communities. Brief descriptions of each agency and their various programs follow below with links to more specific information. Certain aspects of your planned network and/or your network partner may be eligible as well for what is known as Universal Service. The rules surrounding the receipt of Universal Service are discussed generally below.

Department of Commerce - Economic Development Administration

The Economic Development Administration gives grants for broadband to support regional and local economic development and assistance in scoping out those proposals.

Department of Agriculture - Rural Development USDA Rural Development

Rural Utilities Programs provide a variety of loans and grants to build and expand broadband networks. Loans to build broadband networks and deliver service to households and businesses in dual communities provide a necessary source of capital for rural telecommunications companies, broadband, wireless companies, and fiber-to-the-home providers. Grant funding is reserved for communities with the highest need that lack access to broadband service. Eligible applicants include for-profit and non-profit entities, tribes, municipalities, and cooperatives. The agency particularly encourages investment in tribal and economically disadvantaged areas. Through low-cost funding for broadband infrastructure, rural residents can have access to broadband service that will close the digital divide between rural and urban communities, that is sustainable over time, and this crucial for economic development.

Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program

The Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program provides loans, for all types of technologies, for the costs of construction, improvement, expansion and acquisition (some restrictions apply) of facilities and equipment to provide telecommunications services in rural areas.

Farm Bill Broadband Loan Program

This program provides loans, for all types of technologies, for the costs of construction, improvement, expansion and acquisition (some restrictions apply) of facilities and equipment to provide broadband service to eligible rural communities.

Community Connect Grant Program

The Community Connect Grant Program provides grants to eligible applicants for broadband access to rural communities that are currently without broadband services. Priority is given to areas where development of new broadband services will improve economic development and provide enhanced educational and healthcare opportunities. The program serves the most rural, lowest income communities that do not have existing broadband access.

Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program

This program provides grants for distance learning and telemedicine in rural areas through the use of telecommunications, computer networks, and related advanced technologies to be used by students, teachers, medical professionals and other rural residents. Grants are awarded based on rurality and economic need through a competitive process and maybe used to fund telecommunications-enabled information, audio and video equipment. Funds are provided to entities providing education and medical care via telecommunications, including corporations or partnerships, Indian tribes or organizations, star or local governments, consortia, and private for - or non-profit corporations. Individuals are not eligible.

Universal Service Funding

The Universal Service Fund USF) is governed by federal statute, the Communications Act of 1934, as amended. It operates under rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and administered by the Universal Service Administrative Agency (USAC). It was originally created by the FCC at the time of the break-up of AT&T in the early 1980s to subsidize voice service in higher cost areas and was subsequently expanded to assist low income customers. As part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Congress codified the USF, established requirements for the high-cost and low-income funds, and created a new Schools and Libraries program.

The USF's four programs fulfill these goals:

  • The High-Cost program
  • The Lifeline (low income) program, including initiatives for Native Americans
  • The Schools and Libraries program, commonly referred to as E-rate
  • The Rural Health Care program

State Funding Resources