Rural eConnectivity Program, 58860-58864 [2021-23128]

Download as PDF jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 58860 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 203 / Monday, October 25, 2021 / Notices Public Call-in Information: Conference Join ZoomGov Meeting https://www.zoomgov.com/j/ 16146435155?pwd=eWFuSkJJUmgr QnE3bUhHK0dpUDF2Zz09. Meeting ID: 161 4643 5155. Passcode: ACMF. One tap mobile: +16692545252,16146435155# US (San Jose). +16468287666,16146435155# US (New York). Dial by your location: +1 669 254 5252 US (San Jose). +1 646 828 7666 US (New York). +1 669 216 1590 US (San Jose). +1 551 285 1373 US. Meeting ID: 161 4643 5155. Find your local number: https:// www.zoomgov.com/u/amr6G32xI. Public Comments: Written comments for the Committee’s consideration may be submitted to email: ACMF@usda.gov. Written comments must be received by November 2, 2021. Availability of Materials for the Meeting: General information about the ACMF as well as any updates concerning the meeting announced in this notice, may be found on the ACMF website at https://www.usda.gov/ partnerships/advisory-committee-onminority-farmers. Accessibility: USDA is committed to ensuring that all persons are included in our programs and events. If you are a person with a disability and require reasonable accommodations to participate in this meeting Please contact Eston Williams at Eston.Williams@usda.gov or (202) 596– 0226. Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1–800–877–8339 between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: General information about the committee can also be found at https:// www.usda.gov/partnerships/advisorycommittee-on-minority-farmers. Any member of the public wishing to obtain information concerning this public meeting may contact Eston Williams, Designated Federal Officer (DFO), at Eston.Williams@usda.gov or at (202) 596–0226. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background: The Committee was established in the U.S. Department of Agriculture pursuant to section 14008 of the Food Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, Public Law 110–246, 122 Stat. 1651, 2008 (7 U.S.C. 2279). The Committee works in the interest of the public to ensure socially VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:00 Oct 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 disadvantaged farmers have equal access to USDA programs. The Committee advises the Secretary on the implementation of section 2501 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990; methods of maximizing the participation of minority farmers and ranchers in U.S. Department of Agriculture programs; and civil rights activities within the Department, as such activities relate to participants in such programs. Dated: October 13, 2021. Cikena Reid, USDA Committee Management Officer. [FR Doc. 2021–23235 Filed 10–22–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3412–88–P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Rural Utilities Service [Docket Number: RUS–21–Telecom–0010] Rural eConnectivity Program Rural Utilities Service, USDA. Funding opportunity announcement. AGENCY: ACTION: The Rural Utilities Service, a Rural Development agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), hereinafter referred to as ‘‘RUS’’ or ‘‘the Agency’’ is issuing a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to announce that it is accepting applications for fiscal year 2022 (FY 22) for the Rural eConnectivity Program (the ReConnect Program). In addition, this FOA defines requirements that are determined at the time a funding announcement is published, as outlined in the regulation. As part of this announcement, the Agency is also informing potential applicants and other interested parties about its intention to seek information on a topic that will help inform future funding announcements. More information is located in Section G of this announcement. SUMMARY: Beginning on November 24, 2021, applications can be submitted through the RUS on-line application portal until 11:59 a.m. Eastern on February 22, 2022. Applications will not be accepted after February 22, 2022 until a new application opportunity has been opened with the publication of an additional FOA in the Federal Register. ADDRESSES: Applications must be submitted electronically through the RUS on-line application portal located at https://www.usda.gov/reconnect. This FOA will be made available for informational purposes on Grants.gov. DATES: PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 For general inquiries regarding the ReConnect Program, contact Laurel Leverrier, Assistant Administrator, Telecommunications Program, Rural Utilities Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), email laurel.leverrier@usda.gov, telephone: (202) 720–9554. For inquiries regarding eligibility concerns, please contact the ReConnect Program Staff at https://www.usda.gov/ reconnect/contact-us. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Overview Federal Agency: Rural Utilities Service. Funding Opportunity Title: The Rural eConnectivity Program. Announcement Type: Funding Opportunity Announcement. Assistance Listing: 10.752. Funding Opportunity Number (grants.gov): RUS–REC–2022. Dates: Beginning on November 24, 2021, applications can be submitted through the RUS on-line application portal until 11:59 a.m. Eastern on February 22, 2022. Applications will not be accepted after February 22, 2022 until a new application opportunity has been opened with the publication of an additional FOA in the Federal Register. Administrative: The Agency encourages applicants to consider projects that will advance the following key priorities: • Assisting Rural communities recover economically from the impacts of the COVID–19 pandemic, particularly disadvantaged communities. • Ensuring all rural residents have equitable access to Rural Development programs and benefits from Rural Development funded projects. • Reducing climate pollution and increasing resilience to the impacts of climate change through economic support to rural communities. In addition, the Agency would like to highlight the importance of creating good-paying jobs with strong labor standards. Program Description 1. Program purpose. The ReConnect Program provides loans, grants, and loan/grant combinations to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas. In facilitating the expansion of broadband services and infrastructure, the program will fuel long-term rural economic development and opportunities in rural America. 2. Statutory authority. The ReConnect Program is authorized by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (Pub. L. 115–141), which directs the E:\FR\FM\25OCN1.SGM 25OCN1 jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 203 / Monday, October 25, 2021 / Notices pilot to be conducted under the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 (7 U.S.C. 901 et seq). Since its establishment in 2018, the ReConnect Program has been implemented by issuing two FOAs that detailed the requirements for submitting an application. The ReConnect Program has received successive appropriations by Congress and has matured due to Agency experience and feedback provided by stakeholders. The policies and procedures for the ReConnect Program are codified in a final rule, 7 CFR part 1740, that was published in the Federal Register on February 26, 2021 (86 FR 11603). Among other things, those rules require that the applicant demonstrate that the project can be completely built out within five years from the date funds are first made available; the project is technically feasible; all project costs can be fully funded or accounted for; facilities funded with grant funds will provide the broadband service proposed in the application for the composite economic life of the facilities, as approved by RUS, or as provided in the Award Documents; and that facilities funded with loan funds must provide broadband service through the amortization period of the loan. Applicants should carefully review those rules in conjunction with this FOA. For FY 22, loans, grants, and loan/ grant combinations will be made for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas. 3. Definition of terms. The definitions applicable to this FOA are as follows: i. Local government means the administration of a particular town, county, or district, with representatives elected by those who live there. ii. Remote areas means areas classified by the USDA Economic Research Service as Frontier and Remote Area (FAR) Level 4. A geographic information system (GIS) layer of FAR Level 4 areas can be found at https://www.usda.gov/reconnect. iii. Socially Vulnerable Community means a community or area identified in the Center for Disease Control’s Social Vulnerability Index with a score of .75 or higher. A GIS layer identifying the Socially Vulnerable Communities can be found at https://www.usda.gov/ reconnect. iv. Sufficient access to broadband (7 CFR 1740.2) means any rural area in which households have fixed, terrestrial broadband service defined as 100 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 20 Mbps upstream. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:00 Oct 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 v. System requirements (7 CFR 1740.3(a)(2)). Facilities proposed to be constructed with award funds must be capable of delivering 100 Mbps symmetrical service to every premise in the proposed funded service area (PFSA). Please note that capable of delivering 100 Mbps symmetrical service to every premise means that all premises in the PFSA must be able to receive this service at the same time. vi. Tribal Government means the governing body of an Indian or Alaska Native tribe, band, nation, pueblo, village, or community listed pursuant to the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994, 25 U.S.C. 479a. vii. Tribal land means any area identified by the United States Census Bureau as tribal land. A GIS layer of Tribal Lands can be found on the RUS mapping tool located at https:// www.usda.gov/reconnect. viii. Other definitions related to the ReConnect Program are contained in 7 CFR 1740.2. B. Federal Award Information 1. Funding categories, interest rates and terms (7 CFR 1740.3(b)). i. 100 Percent Loan. Applications will be processed and awarded on a rolling basis. In the event two loan applications are received for the same PFSA, the application submitted first will be considered first. The interest rate for a 100 percent loan will be set at a fixed 2 percent. Principal and interest payments will be deferred for three years. The amortization period will be based on the composite economic life of the assets funded plus three years. ii. 50 Percent Loan/50 Percent Grant Combination. The interest rate for the 50 percent loan component will be set at the Treasury rate for the remaining amortization period at the time of each advance of funds. Principal and interest payments will be deferred for three years. The amortization period will be based on the composite economic life of the assets funded plus three years. Applicants may propose substituting cash for the loan component at the time of application and funds must be deposited into the applicant’s operating accounts at the closing of the award. iii. 100 Percent Grant. Applicants must provide a matching contribution equal to at least 25 percent of the cost of the overall project. The matching contribution requirement applies only to the 100 Percent Grant funding category. The applicant must clearly identify the source of the funds even if it is to be provided from the applicant’s operating accounts. All matching funds must be deposited into the applicant’s operating accounts at the closing of the PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 58861 award. If the matching funds are provided by a third party, a commitment letter from the third party must be submitted indicating that the funds will be available at the closing of the award if approved. The matching contribution can only be used for eligible purposes. If the applicant elects to initiate a loan to satisfy the matching requirement, documentation must be included as part of the application indicating the terms and conditions for the loan and that the grant funded assets cannot be used as collateral for the matching funds loan. The loan must be entered into and funds transferred into the applicant’s accounts by the closing of the award. iv. 100 Percent Grant for Tribal Governments and Socially Vulnerable Communities. If the applicant is a Tribal Government, or a corporation that is wholly owned by a Tribal Government, proposing to provide service on its own lands, there is no matching fund requirement and applicants may apply for grant funds to construct the broadband facilities. In addition, if at least 75 percent of the geographic area of an applicant’s PFSA(s) consists of Socially Vulnerable Communities, as defined in section A.3.iii. of this FOA, there is no matching fund requirement and applicants may apply for grant funds to construct the broadband facilities. 2. Maximum and minimum funding amounts (7 CFR 1740.3(b)). i. 100 Percent Loan. Up to $200,000,000 is available for loans. The maximum amount that can be requested in an application is $50,000,000. ii. 50 Percent Loan—50 Percent Grant Combination. Up to $250,000,000 is available for loan/grant combinations. The maximum amount that can be requested in an application is $25,000,000 for the loan and $25,000,000 for the grant. Loan and grant amounts will always be equal. iii. 100 Percent Grant. Up to $350,000,000 is available for grants. The maximum amount of grant funds that can be requested in an application is $25,000,000. However, to encourage broadband deployment in remote areas, if an applicant provides supporting information that demonstrates that the PFSA(s) is comprised 100 percent of areas classified by the USDA Economic Research Service as FAR Level 4, the applicant may request up to $35,000,000. A GIS layer of FAR Level 4 areas can be found at https:// www.usda.gov/reconnect. iv. 100 Percent Grant for Tribal Governments and Socially Vulnerable Communities. Up to $350,000,000 is available for grants. The maximum E:\FR\FM\25OCN1.SGM 25OCN1 58862 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 203 / Monday, October 25, 2021 / Notices jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 amount of grant funds that can be requested in an application is $25,000,000. However, to encourage broadband deployment in remote areas, if an applicant provides supporting information that demonstrates that the PFSA(s) is comprised 100 percent of locations within areas classified by the USDA Economic Research Service as FAR Level 4, the applicant may request up to $35,000,000. A GIS layer of FAR Level 4 areas can be found at https:// www.usda.gov/reconnect. v. The minimum amount that can be requested in any ReConnect Program application is $100,000. C. Eligibility Information 1. Eligibility requirements. The eligibility requirements for the ReConnect Program are published at 7 CFR 1740 Subpart B. 2. Eligible service areas. The following areas are eligible: i. For a PFSA to be eligible for funding, at least 90 percent of the households in the PFSA must lack sufficient access to broadband. For purposes of this FOA, sufficient access to broadband means any rural area in which households have access to fixed, terrestrial broadband service of at least 100 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 20 Mbps upstream. Applicants must submit evidence that sufficient access to broadband does not exist for 90 percent of the households in the PFSA, identify all existing providers in the PFSA, and indicate what level of service is being provided. If these areas are found to have sufficient service, the application will be rejected. ii. Pursuant to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Pub. L. 116– 260), the service areas of existing RUS borrowers without sufficient access to broadband, as defined in this FOA, are eligible for ReConnect funding. iii. Areas that receive support from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but are without sufficient access to broadband, as defined in this FOA, are eligible for funding under this FOA. iv. RUS will offer funding in areas receiving or under consideration for a Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) award because RDOF funds both operational expenses and capital expenses, while ReConnect funds only capital expenses. However, the application should explain why RUS should provide additional funding. For example, will the applicant commit to an accelerated deployment schedule if it receives RUS funding. RUS will also require all ReConnect awardees receiving or under consideration for RDOF funding to submit a statement VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:00 Oct 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 certifying that the funds requested from ReConnect have not been and will not be reimbursed by the RDOF award. That is, funds must be used only for complementary purposes and not for duplicative ones, and therefore funding recipients cannot claim that both RDOF and ReConnect funds were used to pay for the same labor or materials used to deploy broadband to specific locations or to procure the same unit of network equipment. Recipients that receive both RDOF and ReConnect funding must keep separate accounts to track the sources and uses of each funding source as needed to support the certification statement submitted with its ReConnect application. v. If two or more applications are submitted for the same non-Tribal Land area receiving or under consideration for an RDOF award, and one of those applications is submitted by the RDOF winning bidder, or the winning bidder’s assignee, and its application scores equally as high as the other application(s) for the area, RUS will give preference to the applicant receiving or under consideration for the RDOF award, except that on Tribal Lands, RUS will give preference to the applicant that has a Tribal Government Resolution of Consent. vi. If an applicant has applied for or is receiving other federal funding to deploy broadband in all or part of the PFSA, the applicant should explain how RUS funding will be complementary to but not duplicative of the other funding. ReConnect awardees will be required to submit a statement certifying that the funds requested from ReConnect have not been and will not be reimbursed by any other federal funding mechanism. 3. Tribal Government Resolution of Consent. Pursuant to 7 CFR 1740.60(d)(19), a certification from the appropriate tribal official is required if service is being proposed over or on tribal lands. The appropriate certification is a Tribal Government Resolution of Consent. The appropriate tribal official is the Tribal Council of the Tribal Government with jurisdiction over the tribal lands at issue. Any applicant that fails to provide a certification to provide service on the tribal lands identified in the PFSA will not be considered for funding. 4. Pre-application expenses. The costs associated with satisfying the environmental review requirements are eligible for reimbursement under this category. Up to three percent of the requested award funds can be used for this purpose. Please note that any environmental expenses will count as part of the overall five percent that is allowable for pre-application expenses. PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 D. Application and Submission Information 1. All requirements for submission of an application under the ReConnect Program are subject to 7 CFR part 1740. 2. Applications must be submitted through the Agency’s online application system located on the ReConnect web page, https://www.usda.gov/reconnect. All materials required for completing an application are included in the online system. Please note there are a number of supporting documents that will need to be uploaded through the application system. 3. Applicants can submit only one application. Applicants may start multiple applications in the system but only one can be submitted. E. Application Review Information 1. Evaluation. All applications are subject to the submission and evaluation requirements contained in 7 CFR 1740, Subpart E. 2. Scoring. Applications will be scored based on the following criteria: i. Rurality of PFSA (25 Points). Points will be awarded for serving the least dense rural areas as measured by the population of the PFSA per square mile or if the PFSA is located at least one hundred miles from a city or town that has a population of greater than 50,000 inhabitants. If multiple service areas are proposed, the density calculation will be made on the combined areas as if they were a single area and not the average densities. Population densities of 6 or less or if the PFSA is located one hundred miles from a city or town of 50,000, 25 points will be awarded. ii. Level of existing service (25 Points). Projects that are proposing to build in areas that are not receiving service of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream will receive 25 points, with points awarded based on the number of households lacking such service that the project will serve. Applicants must provide supporting evidence that 25/3 service does not exist for those households. To the extent possible, applicants must identify all existing providers in the PFSA and indicate what level of service is actually being provided. Applicants are not required to treat the publicly available FCC current Form 477 data as dispositive of what speed service currently exists. iii. Economic need of the community (20 Points). Economic need is based on the county poverty percentage of the PFSA in the application. The percentages must be determined by utilizing the United States Census Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) Program. For applications E:\FR\FM\25OCN1.SGM 25OCN1 jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 203 / Monday, October 25, 2021 / Notices where 75 percent of the PFSA(s) are proposing to serve communities with a SAIPE score of 20 percent or higher, 20 points will be awarded. Proposed funded service areas located in geographic areas for which no SAIPE data exist will be determined to have an average SAIPE poverty percentage of 30 percent. Such geographic areas may include territories of the United States or other locations eligible for funding through the ReConnect Program. A GIS layer identifying SAIPE areas can be found in the RUS mapping tool located at https://reconnect.usda.gov. iv. Affordability (20 Points). Applications can receive 20 points based on their affordability measures. Applicants should demonstrate that the broadband prices they will offer are affordable to their target markets, provide information about the pricing and speed tiers they intend to offer, and include at least one low-cost option offered at speeds that are sufficient for a household with multiple users to simultaneously telework and engage in remote learning. Applicants should also commit to applying to participate in the Federal Communication Commission’s Lifeline Program, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, and any successors to those programs which provide low-income consumers with discounts on broadband services. More details are available in the Application Guide. v. Labor Standards (20 points). It is important that necessary investments in broadband infrastructure be carried out in ways that produce high-quality infrastructure, avert disruptive and costly delays, and promote efficiency. The Agency understands the importance of promoting workforce development and encourages recipients to ensure that broadband projects use strong labor standards consistent with Tribal laws when projects propose to build infrastructure on Tribal Lands. Using these practices in construction projects not only promotes effective and efficient delivery of high-quality infrastructure and supports the economic recovery through employment opportunities for workers, but may also help to ensure a reliable supply of skilled labor that would minimize disruptions, such as those associated with labor disputes or workplace injuries. Applicants should include in their applications a description of whether and, if so, how the project will incorporate strong labor standards, including whether workers (including contractors and subcontractors) will be paid wages at or above the prevailing VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:00 Oct 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 rate; 1 whether the project will be covered by a project labor agreement; what safety training, professional certifications, in-house training and/or licensure will be required of workers (including contractors and subcontractors); whether a locally-based workforce will be used; whether work will be performed by a directly employed workforce or whether the employer has policies and practices in place to ensure employees of contractors and subcontractors are qualified; and whether the applicant, its contractors, or subcontractors have any violations of state or federal labor, workplace safety and health, or employment laws within the last five years. For applicants that commit to strong labor standards, consistent with Tribal Laws when the project proposes to build infrastructure on Tribal Lands, 20 points will be awarded. Projects that propose to build infrastructure on Tribal Lands must follow Tribal Laws such as Tribal Employment Rights Ordinances to be in compliance with a ReConnect award, regardless of receiving points under this standard. The Agency reserves the right to adjust award amounts for unforeseen circumstances. vi. Tribal lands (15 Points). For applicants that are Tribal Governments and tribal entities and, at a minimum, 50 percent of the geographical area of the PFSA(s) is to provide service on tribal lands, 15 points shall be awarded. For non-tribal entities where at least 50 percent of the geographic area of the PFSA(s) is to provide service on tribal lands, 10 points shall be awarded. Tribal lands will be analyzed using the GIS layer in the RUS mapping tool located at https://reconnect.usda.gov. vii. Local governments, non-profits and cooperatives (15 points). Applications submitted by local governments, non-profits or cooperatives (including for projects involving public-private partnerships where the local government, non-profit, or cooperative is the applicant) will be awarded 15 points. viii. Socially Vulnerable Communities (15 points). For applications where at least 75 percent of the PFSA(s) are 1 This means that all laborers and mechanics employed by contractors and subcontractors in the performance of such project are paid wages at rates not less than those prevailing, as determined by the U.S. Secretary of Labor in accordance with subchapter IV of chapter 31 of title 40, United States Code (commonly known as the ‘‘Davis-Bacon Act’’) or, for the corresponding classes of laborers and mechanics employed on projects of a character similar to the contract work in the civil subdivision of the State (or the District of Columbia) in which the work is to be performed, or by the appropriate state entity pursuant to a corollary state prevailingwage-in-construction law (commonly known as ‘‘baby Davis-Bacon Acts’’). PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 58863 proposing to serve Socially Vulnerable Communities, as defined in this FOA, 15 points will be awarded. ix. Net neutrality (10 points). For applicants that commit to net neutrality, 10 points will be awarded. A board resolution or its equivalent must be submitted in the application committing that the applicant’s networks shall not (1) block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management; (2) impair or degrade lawful internet traffic on the basis of internet content, application, or service, or use of a non-harmful device, subject to reasonable network management; and (3) engage in paid prioritization, meaning the management of a broadband provider’s network to directly or indirectly favor some traffic over other traffic, including through use of techniques such as traffic shaping, prioritization, resource reservation, or other forms of preferential traffic management, either (a) in exchange for consideration (monetary or otherwise) from a third party, or (b) to benefit an affiliated entity. x. Wholesale broadband services (10 points). Recipients that commit to offering wholesale broadband services at rates and terms that are reasonable and nondiscriminatory will receive 10 points. F. Federal Award Administration Information 1. Closing, servicing and reporting. All applications are subject to the requirements contained in 7 CFR 1740, Subpart F. 2. Other requirements. All applications are subject to the additional requirements contained in 7 CFR 1740, Subpart G. 3. Ineligible Costs. A recipient may not use grant or loan funds, whether directly or indirectly as an offset for other funds, to support or oppose collective bargaining. G. Upcoming Request for Information As noted in the Summary section of this announcement, RUS intends to issue a Request for Information (RFI) seeking feedback from potential applicants and other interested parties on whether the requirement for facilities constructed with RUS funding to provide 100 Mbps symmetrical service to every premise in the proposed funded service area (PFSA) at the same time should apply in future funding rounds. The feedback from that RFI will help inform future funding announcements, including potentially scoring criteria. E:\FR\FM\25OCN1.SGM 25OCN1 58864 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 203 / Monday, October 25, 2021 / Notices H. Federal Awarding Agency Contacts Any questions should be addressed to the contact information located in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this FOA. jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 I. Other Information 1. Paperwork Reduction Act. In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, the information collection requirements associated with the ReConnect Program, as covered in this FOA, have been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under OMB Control Number 0572–0152. This funding announcement does not create any new information collection requirements nor does it change existing information collection requirements. 2. Congressional Review Act. Pursuant to Subtitle E of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (also known as the Congressional Review Act or CRA), 5 U.S.C. 801 et seq., the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget designated this action as a major rule as defined by 5 U.S.C. 804(2), because it is likely to result in an annual effect on the economy of $100,000,000 or more. Accordingly, there is a 60-day delay in the effective date of this action. Application selection will not begin until after December 27, 2021. Therefore, the 60-day delay required by the CRA is not expected to have a material impact upon the administration and/or implementation of the ReConnect Program. 3. USDA Non-Discrimination Statement. In accordance with Federal civil rights law and USDA civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Mission Areas, agencies, staff offices, employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity (including gender expression), sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, familial status, family/ parental status, income derived from a public assistance program, political beliefs, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity, in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA (not all bases apply to all programs). Remedies and complaint filing deadlines vary by program or incident. Program Information may be made available in languages other than English. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication to obtain program information (e.g., Braille, large print, VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:00 Oct 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.) should contact the responsible Mission Area, Agency, or staff office; the USDA TARGET Center at 202–720–2600 (voice and TTY); or the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877–8339. To file a program discrimination complaint, a complainant should complete a Form AD–3027, USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, which can be obtained online at https://www/ocio.usda.gov/documents/ ad-3027, from any USDA office, by calling (866) 632–9992, or by writing a letter addressed to USDA. The letter must contain the complainant’s name, address, telephone number, and a written description of the alleged discriminatory action in sufficient detail to inform the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights about the nature and date of an alleged civil rights violation. The completed AD–3027 form or letter must be submitted to USDA by: (1) Mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20250–9410; or (2) Fax: (833) 256–1665 or (202) 690– 7442; or (3) Email: program.intake@usda.gov. USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender. Christopher A. McLean, Acting Administrator, Rural Utilities Service. [FR Doc. 2021–23128 Filed 10–22–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–15–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE International Trade Administration [A–570–143] Freight Rail Coupler Systems and Certain Components Thereof From the People’s Republic of China: Initiation of Less-Than-Fair-Value Investigation Enforcement and Compliance, International Trade Administration, Department of Commerce DATES: Applicable October 19, 2021. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Harrison, AD/CVD Operations, Enforcement and Compliance, International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20230; telephone: (202) 482–0357. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: AGENCY: The Petition On September 29, 2021, the U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) received an antidumping duty (AD) PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 petition concerning imports of freight rail coupler systems and certain components thereof (freight rail couplers) from the People’s Republic of China (China) filed in proper form on behalf of the Coalition of Freight Coupler Producers (the petitioner).1 On October 6, 2021, the petitioner filed an amendment to the Petition, clarifying the identity of the members of the Coalition of Freight Coupler Producers, the members of which are, or represent, domestic producers of freight rail couplers.2 The Petition was accompanied by a countervailing duty (CVD) petition concerning imports of freight rail couplers from China.3 On October 1, 4, 8, and 15, 2021, Commerce requested supplemental information pertaining to certain aspects of the Petition in both general and ADspecific separate supplemental questionnaires and phone calls with the petitioner.4 On October 6, 12, and 18, 1 See Petitioner’s Letter, ‘‘Certain Freight Rail Coupler Systems and Components Thereof from the People’s Republic of China: Petitions for the Imposition of Antidumping and Countervailing Duties,’’ dated September 29, 2021 (the Petition). 2 See Petitioner’s Letters, ‘‘Amended Entry of Appearance: A–570–143,’’ dated October 6, 2021 (Amended EOA) and ‘‘Freight Rail Coupler Systems and Certain Components Thereof from the People’s Republic of China: Response to First Supplemental Questions for on Volume I General Issues and Injury Petition,’’ dated October 6, 2021 (First General Issues Supplement). The petitioner notes that, per the Amended EOA, the members of the Coalition of Freight Coupler Producers are: McConway & Torley, LLC and the United Steel, Paper & Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Worker International Union, AFL–CIO, CLC (the USW). The petitioner further notes that Amsted Rail Company, Inc. (Amsted) is no longer a member of the petitioning coalition and that the USW represents the workers at Amsted’s Granite, IL facility. See First General Issues Supplement at 8. 3 See the Petition. 4 See Commerce’s Letters, ‘‘Petitions for the Imposition of Antidumping and Countervailing Duties on Imports of Certain Freight Rail Coupler Systems and Components Thereof from the People’s Republic of China: Supplemental Questions,’’ dated October 4, 2021 (General Issues Supplemental); ‘‘Petition for the Imposition of Antidumping Duties on Imports of Certain Freight Rail Coupler Systems and Components Thereof from the People’s Republic of China: Supplemental Questions,’’ dated October 4, 2021; Memorandum, ‘‘Petitions for the Imposition of Antidumping and Countervailing Duties on Imports of Certain Freight Rail Coupler Systems and Components Thereof from the People’s Republic of China: Phone Call with Counsel to the Petitioner,’’ dated October 4, 2021 (October 4, 2021, Phone Call Memorandum); Memorandum, ‘‘Petitions for the Imposition of Antidumping and Countervailing Duties on Imports of Certain Freight Rail Coupler Systems and Components Thereof from the People’s Republic of China: Phone Call with Counsel to the Petitioner,’’ dated October 8, 2021 (October 8, 2021, Phone Call Memorandum); and Memorandum, ‘‘Petitions for the Imposition of Antidumping and Countervailing Duties on Imports of Certain Freight Rail Coupler Systems and Components Thereof from the People’s Republic of China: Phone Call with Counsel to the Petitioner,’’ dated October 15, 2021 (October 15, 2021, Phone Call Memorandum). E:\FR\FM\25OCN1.SGM 25OCN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 203 (Monday, October 25, 2021)]
[Notices]
[Pages 58860-58864]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-23128]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Rural Utilities Service

[Docket Number: RUS-21-Telecom-0010]


Rural eConnectivity Program

AGENCY: Rural Utilities Service, USDA.

ACTION: Funding opportunity announcement.

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SUMMARY: The Rural Utilities Service, a Rural Development agency of the 
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), hereinafter referred to 
as ``RUS'' or ``the Agency'' is issuing a Funding Opportunity 
Announcement (FOA) to announce that it is accepting applications for 
fiscal year 2022 (FY 22) for the Rural eConnectivity Program (the 
ReConnect Program). In addition, this FOA defines requirements that are 
determined at the time a funding announcement is published, as outlined 
in the regulation. As part of this announcement, the Agency is also 
informing potential applicants and other interested parties about its 
intention to seek information on a topic that will help inform future 
funding announcements. More information is located in Section G of this 
announcement.

DATES: Beginning on November 24, 2021, applications can be submitted 
through the RUS on-line application portal until 11:59 a.m. Eastern on 
February 22, 2022. Applications will not be accepted after February 22, 
2022 until a new application opportunity has been opened with the 
publication of an additional FOA in the Federal Register.

ADDRESSES: Applications must be submitted electronically through the 
RUS on-line application portal located at https://www.usda.gov/reconnect. This FOA will be made available for informational purposes 
on Grants.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For general inquiries regarding the 
ReConnect Program, contact Laurel Leverrier, Assistant Administrator, 
Telecommunications Program, Rural Utilities Service, U.S. Department of 
Agriculture (USDA), email [email protected], telephone: (202) 
720-9554.
    For inquiries regarding eligibility concerns, please contact the 
ReConnect Program Staff at https://www.usda.gov/reconnect/contact-us.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Overview

    Federal Agency: Rural Utilities Service.
    Funding Opportunity Title: The Rural eConnectivity Program.
    Announcement Type: Funding Opportunity Announcement.
    Assistance Listing: 10.752.
    Funding Opportunity Number (grants.gov): RUS-REC-2022.
    Dates: Beginning on November 24, 2021, applications can be 
submitted through the RUS on-line application portal until 11:59 a.m. 
Eastern on February 22, 2022. Applications will not be accepted after 
February 22, 2022 until a new application opportunity has been opened 
with the publication of an additional FOA in the Federal Register.
    Administrative: The Agency encourages applicants to consider 
projects that will advance the following key priorities:
     Assisting Rural communities recover economically from the 
impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly disadvantaged 
communities.
     Ensuring all rural residents have equitable access to 
Rural Development programs and benefits from Rural Development funded 
projects.
     Reducing climate pollution and increasing resilience to 
the impacts of climate change through economic support to rural 
communities.
    In addition, the Agency would like to highlight the importance of 
creating good-paying jobs with strong labor standards.

Program Description

    1. Program purpose. The ReConnect Program provides loans, grants, 
and loan/grant combinations to facilitate broadband deployment in rural 
areas. In facilitating the expansion of broadband services and 
infrastructure, the program will fuel long-term rural economic 
development and opportunities in rural America.
    2. Statutory authority. The ReConnect Program is authorized by the 
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (Pub. L. 115-141), which directs 
the

[[Page 58861]]

pilot to be conducted under the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 (7 
U.S.C. 901 et seq). Since its establishment in 2018, the ReConnect 
Program has been implemented by issuing two FOAs that detailed the 
requirements for submitting an application. The ReConnect Program has 
received successive appropriations by Congress and has matured due to 
Agency experience and feedback provided by stakeholders. The policies 
and procedures for the ReConnect Program are codified in a final rule, 
7 CFR part 1740, that was published in the Federal Register on February 
26, 2021 (86 FR 11603). Among other things, those rules require that 
the applicant demonstrate that the project can be completely built out 
within five years from the date funds are first made available; the 
project is technically feasible; all project costs can be fully funded 
or accounted for; facilities funded with grant funds will provide the 
broadband service proposed in the application for the composite 
economic life of the facilities, as approved by RUS, or as provided in 
the Award Documents; and that facilities funded with loan funds must 
provide broadband service through the amortization period of the loan. 
Applicants should carefully review those rules in conjunction with this 
FOA.
    For FY 22, loans, grants, and loan/grant combinations will be made 
for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of 
facilities and equipment needed to facilitate broadband deployment in 
rural areas.
    3. Definition of terms. The definitions applicable to this FOA are 
as follows:
    i. Local government means the administration of a particular town, 
county, or district, with representatives elected by those who live 
there.
    ii. Remote areas means areas classified by the USDA Economic 
Research Service as Frontier and Remote Area (FAR) Level 4. A 
geographic information system (GIS) layer of FAR Level 4 areas can be 
found at https://www.usda.gov/reconnect.
    iii. Socially Vulnerable Community means a community or area 
identified in the Center for Disease Control's Social Vulnerability 
Index with a score of .75 or higher. A GIS layer identifying the 
Socially Vulnerable Communities can be found at https://www.usda.gov/reconnect.
    iv. Sufficient access to broadband (7 CFR 1740.2) means any rural 
area in which households have fixed, terrestrial broadband service 
defined as 100 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 20 Mbps 
upstream.
    v. System requirements (7 CFR 1740.3(a)(2)). Facilities proposed to 
be constructed with award funds must be capable of delivering 100 Mbps 
symmetrical service to every premise in the proposed funded service 
area (PFSA). Please note that capable of delivering 100 Mbps 
symmetrical service to every premise means that all premises in the 
PFSA must be able to receive this service at the same time.
    vi. Tribal Government means the governing body of an Indian or 
Alaska Native tribe, band, nation, pueblo, village, or community listed 
pursuant to the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994, 25 
U.S.C. 479a.
    vii. Tribal land means any area identified by the United States 
Census Bureau as tribal land. A GIS layer of Tribal Lands can be found 
on the RUS mapping tool located at https://www.usda.gov/reconnect.
    viii. Other definitions related to the ReConnect Program are 
contained in 7 CFR 1740.2.

B. Federal Award Information

    1. Funding categories, interest rates and terms (7 CFR 1740.3(b)).
    i. 100 Percent Loan. Applications will be processed and awarded on 
a rolling basis. In the event two loan applications are received for 
the same PFSA, the application submitted first will be considered 
first. The interest rate for a 100 percent loan will be set at a fixed 
2 percent. Principal and interest payments will be deferred for three 
years. The amortization period will be based on the composite economic 
life of the assets funded plus three years.
    ii. 50 Percent Loan/50 Percent Grant Combination. The interest rate 
for the 50 percent loan component will be set at the Treasury rate for 
the remaining amortization period at the time of each advance of funds. 
Principal and interest payments will be deferred for three years. The 
amortization period will be based on the composite economic life of the 
assets funded plus three years. Applicants may propose substituting 
cash for the loan component at the time of application and funds must 
be deposited into the applicant's operating accounts at the closing of 
the award.
    iii. 100 Percent Grant. Applicants must provide a matching 
contribution equal to at least 25 percent of the cost of the overall 
project. The matching contribution requirement applies only to the 100 
Percent Grant funding category. The applicant must clearly identify the 
source of the funds even if it is to be provided from the applicant's 
operating accounts. All matching funds must be deposited into the 
applicant's operating accounts at the closing of the award. If the 
matching funds are provided by a third party, a commitment letter from 
the third party must be submitted indicating that the funds will be 
available at the closing of the award if approved. The matching 
contribution can only be used for eligible purposes. If the applicant 
elects to initiate a loan to satisfy the matching requirement, 
documentation must be included as part of the application indicating 
the terms and conditions for the loan and that the grant funded assets 
cannot be used as collateral for the matching funds loan. The loan must 
be entered into and funds transferred into the applicant's accounts by 
the closing of the award.
    iv. 100 Percent Grant for Tribal Governments and Socially 
Vulnerable Communities. If the applicant is a Tribal Government, or a 
corporation that is wholly owned by a Tribal Government, proposing to 
provide service on its own lands, there is no matching fund requirement 
and applicants may apply for grant funds to construct the broadband 
facilities. In addition, if at least 75 percent of the geographic area 
of an applicant's PFSA(s) consists of Socially Vulnerable Communities, 
as defined in section A.3.iii. of this FOA, there is no matching fund 
requirement and applicants may apply for grant funds to construct the 
broadband facilities.
    2. Maximum and minimum funding amounts (7 CFR 1740.3(b)).
    i. 100 Percent Loan. Up to $200,000,000 is available for loans. The 
maximum amount that can be requested in an application is $50,000,000.
    ii. 50 Percent Loan--50 Percent Grant Combination. Up to 
$250,000,000 is available for loan/grant combinations. The maximum 
amount that can be requested in an application is $25,000,000 for the 
loan and $25,000,000 for the grant. Loan and grant amounts will always 
be equal.
    iii. 100 Percent Grant. Up to $350,000,000 is available for grants. 
The maximum amount of grant funds that can be requested in an 
application is $25,000,000. However, to encourage broadband deployment 
in remote areas, if an applicant provides supporting information that 
demonstrates that the PFSA(s) is comprised 100 percent of areas 
classified by the USDA Economic Research Service as FAR Level 4, the 
applicant may request up to $35,000,000. A GIS layer of FAR Level 4 
areas can be found at https://www.usda.gov/reconnect.
    iv. 100 Percent Grant for Tribal Governments and Socially 
Vulnerable Communities. Up to $350,000,000 is available for grants. The 
maximum

[[Page 58862]]

amount of grant funds that can be requested in an application is 
$25,000,000. However, to encourage broadband deployment in remote 
areas, if an applicant provides supporting information that 
demonstrates that the PFSA(s) is comprised 100 percent of locations 
within areas classified by the USDA Economic Research Service as FAR 
Level 4, the applicant may request up to $35,000,000. A GIS layer of 
FAR Level 4 areas can be found at https://www.usda.gov/reconnect.
    v. The minimum amount that can be requested in any ReConnect 
Program application is $100,000.

C. Eligibility Information

    1. Eligibility requirements. The eligibility requirements for the 
ReConnect Program are published at 7 CFR 1740 Subpart B.
    2. Eligible service areas. The following areas are eligible:
    i. For a PFSA to be eligible for funding, at least 90 percent of 
the households in the PFSA must lack sufficient access to broadband. 
For purposes of this FOA, sufficient access to broadband means any 
rural area in which households have access to fixed, terrestrial 
broadband service of at least 100 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream 
and 20 Mbps upstream. Applicants must submit evidence that sufficient 
access to broadband does not exist for 90 percent of the households in 
the PFSA, identify all existing providers in the PFSA, and indicate 
what level of service is being provided. If these areas are found to 
have sufficient service, the application will be rejected.
    ii. Pursuant to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Pub. L. 
116-260), the service areas of existing RUS borrowers without 
sufficient access to broadband, as defined in this FOA, are eligible 
for ReConnect funding.
    iii. Areas that receive support from the Federal Communications 
Commission (FCC), but are without sufficient access to broadband, as 
defined in this FOA, are eligible for funding under this FOA.
    iv. RUS will offer funding in areas receiving or under 
consideration for a Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) award because 
RDOF funds both operational expenses and capital expenses, while 
ReConnect funds only capital expenses. However, the application should 
explain why RUS should provide additional funding. For example, will 
the applicant commit to an accelerated deployment schedule if it 
receives RUS funding. RUS will also require all ReConnect awardees 
receiving or under consideration for RDOF funding to submit a statement 
certifying that the funds requested from ReConnect have not been and 
will not be reimbursed by the RDOF award. That is, funds must be used 
only for complementary purposes and not for duplicative ones, and 
therefore funding recipients cannot claim that both RDOF and ReConnect 
funds were used to pay for the same labor or materials used to deploy 
broadband to specific locations or to procure the same unit of network 
equipment. Recipients that receive both RDOF and ReConnect funding must 
keep separate accounts to track the sources and uses of each funding 
source as needed to support the certification statement submitted with 
its ReConnect application.
    v. If two or more applications are submitted for the same non-
Tribal Land area receiving or under consideration for an RDOF award, 
and one of those applications is submitted by the RDOF winning bidder, 
or the winning bidder's assignee, and its application scores equally as 
high as the other application(s) for the area, RUS will give preference 
to the applicant receiving or under consideration for the RDOF award, 
except that on Tribal Lands, RUS will give preference to the applicant 
that has a Tribal Government Resolution of Consent.
    vi. If an applicant has applied for or is receiving other federal 
funding to deploy broadband in all or part of the PFSA, the applicant 
should explain how RUS funding will be complementary to but not 
duplicative of the other funding. ReConnect awardees will be required 
to submit a statement certifying that the funds requested from 
ReConnect have not been and will not be reimbursed by any other federal 
funding mechanism.
    3. Tribal Government Resolution of Consent. Pursuant to 7 CFR 
1740.60(d)(19), a certification from the appropriate tribal official is 
required if service is being proposed over or on tribal lands. The 
appropriate certification is a Tribal Government Resolution of Consent. 
The appropriate tribal official is the Tribal Council of the Tribal 
Government with jurisdiction over the tribal lands at issue. Any 
applicant that fails to provide a certification to provide service on 
the tribal lands identified in the PFSA will not be considered for 
funding.
    4. Pre-application expenses. The costs associated with satisfying 
the environmental review requirements are eligible for reimbursement 
under this category. Up to three percent of the requested award funds 
can be used for this purpose. Please note that any environmental 
expenses will count as part of the overall five percent that is 
allowable for pre-application expenses.

D. Application and Submission Information

    1. All requirements for submission of an application under the 
ReConnect Program are subject to 7 CFR part 1740.
    2. Applications must be submitted through the Agency's online 
application system located on the ReConnect web page, https://www.usda.gov/reconnect. All materials required for completing an 
application are included in the online system. Please note there are a 
number of supporting documents that will need to be uploaded through 
the application system.
    3. Applicants can submit only one application. Applicants may start 
multiple applications in the system but only one can be submitted.

E. Application Review Information

    1. Evaluation. All applications are subject to the submission and 
evaluation requirements contained in 7 CFR 1740, Subpart E.
    2. Scoring. Applications will be scored based on the following 
criteria:
    i. Rurality of PFSA (25 Points). Points will be awarded for serving 
the least dense rural areas as measured by the population of the PFSA 
per square mile or if the PFSA is located at least one hundred miles 
from a city or town that has a population of greater than 50,000 
inhabitants. If multiple service areas are proposed, the density 
calculation will be made on the combined areas as if they were a single 
area and not the average densities. Population densities of 6 or less 
or if the PFSA is located one hundred miles from a city or town of 
50,000, 25 points will be awarded.
    ii. Level of existing service (25 Points). Projects that are 
proposing to build in areas that are not receiving service of at least 
25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream will receive 25 points, with 
points awarded based on the number of households lacking such service 
that the project will serve. Applicants must provide supporting 
evidence that 25/3 service does not exist for those households. To the 
extent possible, applicants must identify all existing providers in the 
PFSA and indicate what level of service is actually being provided. 
Applicants are not required to treat the publicly available FCC current 
Form 477 data as dispositive of what speed service currently exists.
    iii. Economic need of the community (20 Points). Economic need is 
based on the county poverty percentage of the PFSA in the application. 
The percentages must be determined by utilizing the United States 
Census Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) Program. For 
applications

[[Page 58863]]

where 75 percent of the PFSA(s) are proposing to serve communities with 
a SAIPE score of 20 percent or higher, 20 points will be awarded. 
Proposed funded service areas located in geographic areas for which no 
SAIPE data exist will be determined to have an average SAIPE poverty 
percentage of 30 percent. Such geographic areas may include territories 
of the United States or other locations eligible for funding through 
the ReConnect Program. A GIS layer identifying SAIPE areas can be found 
in the RUS mapping tool located at https://reconnect.usda.gov.
    iv. Affordability (20 Points). Applications can receive 20 points 
based on their affordability measures. Applicants should demonstrate 
that the broadband prices they will offer are affordable to their 
target markets, provide information about the pricing and speed tiers 
they intend to offer, and include at least one low-cost option offered 
at speeds that are sufficient for a household with multiple users to 
simultaneously telework and engage in remote learning. Applicants 
should also commit to applying to participate in the Federal 
Communication Commission's Lifeline Program, the Emergency Broadband 
Benefit Program, and any successors to those programs which provide 
low-income consumers with discounts on broadband services. More details 
are available in the Application Guide.
    v. Labor Standards (20 points). It is important that necessary 
investments in broadband infrastructure be carried out in ways that 
produce high-quality infrastructure, avert disruptive and costly 
delays, and promote efficiency. The Agency understands the importance 
of promoting workforce development and encourages recipients to ensure 
that broadband projects use strong labor standards consistent with 
Tribal laws when projects propose to build infrastructure on Tribal 
Lands. Using these practices in construction projects not only promotes 
effective and efficient delivery of high-quality infrastructure and 
supports the economic recovery through employment opportunities for 
workers, but may also help to ensure a reliable supply of skilled labor 
that would minimize disruptions, such as those associated with labor 
disputes or workplace injuries.
    Applicants should include in their applications a description of 
whether and, if so, how the project will incorporate strong labor 
standards, including whether workers (including contractors and 
subcontractors) will be paid wages at or above the prevailing rate; \1\ 
whether the project will be covered by a project labor agreement; what 
safety training, professional certifications, in-house training and/or 
licensure will be required of workers (including contractors and 
subcontractors); whether a locally-based workforce will be used; 
whether work will be performed by a directly employed workforce or 
whether the employer has policies and practices in place to ensure 
employees of contractors and subcontractors are qualified; and whether 
the applicant, its contractors, or subcontractors have any violations 
of state or federal labor, workplace safety and health, or employment 
laws within the last five years.
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    \1\ This means that all laborers and mechanics employed by 
contractors and subcontractors in the performance of such project 
are paid wages at rates not less than those prevailing, as 
determined by the U.S. Secretary of Labor in accordance with 
subchapter IV of chapter 31 of title 40, United States Code 
(commonly known as the ``Davis-Bacon Act'') or, for the 
corresponding classes of laborers and mechanics employed on projects 
of a character similar to the contract work in the civil subdivision 
of the State (or the District of Columbia) in which the work is to 
be performed, or by the appropriate state entity pursuant to a 
corollary state prevailing-wage-in-construction law (commonly known 
as ``baby Davis-Bacon Acts'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    For applicants that commit to strong labor standards, consistent 
with Tribal Laws when the project proposes to build infrastructure on 
Tribal Lands, 20 points will be awarded. Projects that propose to build 
infrastructure on Tribal Lands must follow Tribal Laws such as Tribal 
Employment Rights Ordinances to be in compliance with a ReConnect 
award, regardless of receiving points under this standard. The Agency 
reserves the right to adjust award amounts for unforeseen 
circumstances.
    vi. Tribal lands (15 Points). For applicants that are Tribal 
Governments and tribal entities and, at a minimum, 50 percent of the 
geographical area of the PFSA(s) is to provide service on tribal lands, 
15 points shall be awarded. For non-tribal entities where at least 50 
percent of the geographic area of the PFSA(s) is to provide service on 
tribal lands, 10 points shall be awarded. Tribal lands will be analyzed 
using the GIS layer in the RUS mapping tool located at https://reconnect.usda.gov.
    vii. Local governments, non-profits and cooperatives (15 points). 
Applications submitted by local governments, non-profits or 
cooperatives (including for projects involving public-private 
partnerships where the local government, non-profit, or cooperative is 
the applicant) will be awarded 15 points.
    viii. Socially Vulnerable Communities (15 points). For applications 
where at least 75 percent of the PFSA(s) are proposing to serve 
Socially Vulnerable Communities, as defined in this FOA, 15 points will 
be awarded.
    ix. Net neutrality (10 points). For applicants that commit to net 
neutrality, 10 points will be awarded. A board resolution or its 
equivalent must be submitted in the application committing that the 
applicant's networks shall not (1) block lawful content, applications, 
services, or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network 
management; (2) impair or degrade lawful internet traffic on the basis 
of internet content, application, or service, or use of a non-harmful 
device, subject to reasonable network management; and (3) engage in 
paid prioritization, meaning the management of a broadband provider's 
network to directly or indirectly favor some traffic over other 
traffic, including through use of techniques such as traffic shaping, 
prioritization, resource reservation, or other forms of preferential 
traffic management, either (a) in exchange for consideration (monetary 
or otherwise) from a third party, or (b) to benefit an affiliated 
entity.
    x. Wholesale broadband services (10 points). Recipients that commit 
to offering wholesale broadband services at rates and terms that are 
reasonable and nondiscriminatory will receive 10 points.

F. Federal Award Administration Information

    1. Closing, servicing and reporting. All applications are subject 
to the requirements contained in 7 CFR 1740, Subpart F.
    2. Other requirements. All applications are subject to the 
additional requirements contained in 7 CFR 1740, Subpart G.
    3. Ineligible Costs. A recipient may not use grant or loan funds, 
whether directly or indirectly as an offset for other funds, to support 
or oppose collective bargaining.

G. Upcoming Request for Information

    As noted in the Summary section of this announcement, RUS intends 
to issue a Request for Information (RFI) seeking feedback from 
potential applicants and other interested parties on whether the 
requirement for facilities constructed with RUS funding to provide 100 
Mbps symmetrical service to every premise in the proposed funded 
service area (PFSA) at the same time should apply in future funding 
rounds. The feedback from that RFI will help inform future funding 
announcements, including potentially scoring criteria.

[[Page 58864]]

H. Federal Awarding Agency Contacts

    Any questions should be addressed to the contact information 
located in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this FOA.

I. Other Information

    1. Paperwork Reduction Act. In accordance with the Paperwork 
Reduction Act of 1995, the information collection requirements 
associated with the ReConnect Program, as covered in this FOA, have 
been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under OMB 
Control Number 0572-0152. This funding announcement does not create any 
new information collection requirements nor does it change existing 
information collection requirements.
    2. Congressional Review Act. Pursuant to Subtitle E of the Small 
Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (also known as the 
Congressional Review Act or CRA), 5 U.S.C. 801 et seq., the Office of 
Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and 
Budget designated this action as a major rule as defined by 5 U.S.C. 
804(2), because it is likely to result in an annual effect on the 
economy of $100,000,000 or more. Accordingly, there is a 60-day delay 
in the effective date of this action. Application selection will not 
begin until after December 27, 2021. Therefore, the 60-day delay 
required by the CRA is not expected to have a material impact upon the 
administration and/or implementation of the ReConnect Program.
    3. USDA Non-Discrimination Statement. In accordance with Federal 
civil rights law and USDA civil rights regulations and policies, the 
USDA, its Mission Areas, agencies, staff offices, employees, and 
institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are 
prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, 
religion, sex, gender identity (including gender expression), sexual 
orientation, disability, age, marital status, familial status, family/
parental status, income derived from a public assistance program, 
political beliefs, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights 
activity, in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA (not 
all bases apply to all programs). Remedies and complaint filing 
deadlines vary by program or incident.
    Program Information may be made available in languages other than 
English. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of 
communication to obtain program information (e.g., Braille, large 
print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.) should contact the 
responsible Mission Area, Agency, or staff office; the USDA TARGET 
Center at 202-720-2600 (voice and TTY); or the Federal Relay Service at 
(800) 877-8339.
    To file a program discrimination complaint, a complainant should 
complete a Form AD-3027, USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, 
which can be obtained online at https://www/ocio.usda.gov/documents/ad-3027, from any USDA office, by calling (866) 632-9992, or by writing a 
letter addressed to USDA. The letter must contain the complainant's 
name, address, telephone number, and a written description of the 
alleged discriminatory action in sufficient detail to inform the 
Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights about the nature and date of an 
alleged civil rights violation. The completed AD-3027 form or letter 
must be submitted to USDA by:
    (1) Mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Assistant 
Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 
20250-9410; or
    (2) Fax: (833) 256-1665 or (202) 690-7442; or
    (3) Email: [email protected].
    USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.

Christopher A. McLean,
Acting Administrator, Rural Utilities Service.
[FR Doc. 2021-23128 Filed 10-22-21; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-15-P