For electric cooperatives dipping a toe into the broadband space, there are new resources available to guide you through the process from regulatory requirements to available funds.

NRECA just published a white paper that outlines the federal regulatory obligations that co-ops should expect when delivering communications services such as broadband internet access and video or voice services.

"A full understanding of the regulatory environment of communications services has to be part of the feasibility assessment by electric co-ops weighing whether to deliver broadband," said Brian O'Hara, NRECA regulatory issues director.

"This white paper provides co-ops with a clear overview of the regulatory obligations of broadband, voice and video."

Co-ops can also check out the guide from the U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled Feb. 6 that details federal resources for deploying high-speed internet access in rural America. The free e-Connectivity Toolkit identifies 27 USDA programs that support planning, research and construction of broadband. It also includes information on funding resources, such as grants and loans, and opportunities for technical assistance.

The toolkit dovetails with USDA's ReConnect Program, which was launched in December with $600 million in loans and grants for building broadband in low-density areas. The department has extended the application deadline for this pilot program to May 31.

To qualify, applicants must plan to serve communities of 20,000 or less that lack broadband or have internet speeds below 10 megabits per second. Projects must deliver service of at least 25 mbps.

USDA will hold a ReConnect webinar Feb. 13 to provide general information and expert advice to those interested in applying.

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