Thursday, June 21, 2012

USA - Senate adopts changes to the broadband part of the Rural Utilities Service

the National Journal reports that the U.S. Senate passed an amendment to the broadband section of the farm bill changing the way broadband grants and loans are distributed by the Rural Utilities Service (RUS).
The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Mark Warner, D.-Vir, with a bipartisan group of co-sponsors including Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and the ailing Mark Kirk, R-Ill, sets up a competitive bidding process for broadband loans and grants, and eliminates the rolling application process that was previously in place.

The amendment requires a minimum level of grants for areas that are currently not reached by any broadband service, sets minimum broadband speeds for funded projects, encourages new entrants to the rural broadband sector and requires RUS loan recipients and grantees to map the reach of their broadband projects. Additionally, the amendment directs the Department of Agriculture to devote 1% of RUS appropriated funds to oversight and administration.

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association welcomed this:
Given the scarcity of federal dollars, it is critical that government use its resources efficiently by limiting subsidized overbuilds and focusing its efforts on extending access to the roughly 18 million Americans currently without broadband

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