Cox, other ISPs score $274M in ReConnect funding

The Biden-Harris Administration announced an additional $274 million in grants and loans across eight states as part of the fourth round of the ReConnect Program.

These investments are being made in Alaska, Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas and will benefit 35,886 people, according to a statement from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Cox Communications received a fourth-round ReConnect grant of over $13 million in Oklahoma. Other big winners included Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative (Alaska), Central New Mexico Electric Cooperative (New Mexico), WNM Communications Corporation (New Mexico), Pine Cellular Phones (Oklahoma) and Big Bend Telephone Company (Texas), which were each awarded Reconnect grants over $24 million in their respective states. The Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma was also awarded over $24 million.

Thus far, the USDA has presided over 193 ReConnect projects totaling $3.4 billion, bringing high-speed internet access to approximately 485,000 people in rural communities across the country.  

The agency in August announced $667 million in ReConnect funding. This week's announcement is the sixth batch of grants to be awarded as part of the fourth round of the program.

The ReConnect Program was created to fund the most difficult high-speed internet projects in the nation.

Applicants to the program must serve rural areas that lack access to service of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload speeds. Symmetrical speeds of 100 Mbps is the minimum speed tier that can be built through ReConnect.

The program is technology neutral, meaning that it doesn’t necessarily favor any infrastructure solution over another, unlike some other grant programs that show a preference for fiber over fixed wireless.

Additionally, the program’s awardees are required to apply to the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which offers a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service to qualifying low-income households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal Lands. 

The fate of the ACP, however, is up in the air. Worries over the program’s future have become increasingly urgent over the year, as experts have indicated that it is likely to run out of money sometime in the spring of 2024.

Last month the White House requested $6 billion from Congress to ensure the continuation of the ACP, though that proposal will still need to get through a divided chamber.

In August, White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu had said in a press conference Friday that the ReConnect Program “will not leave anybody behind,” and expressed optimism that the ACP will get the support it needs.

The Administration’s Internet for All initiative set a target to connect everyone in the U.S. to high-speed internet by 2030.