Senate Farm Bill Amended to Address RUS Broadband Loan/Grant Issues


Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) Tuesday successfully spearheaded an effort to amend the Senate Farm Bill, which he says will improve the Rural Utility Service broadband loan/grant program. Cable operators appear to agree.

According to Warner's office, the amendment "provides meaningful broadband access for unserved rural communities, improves government accountability [requires more build-out info from recipients], and enhances broadband mapping," the last by requiring RUS loan and grant recipients to provide build-out data for the map so RUS will have more specific data on which to base handing out the subsidies.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which has concerns about how RUS hands out that money, particularly whether it is used to subsidize overbuilding existing service, saw it as a definite improvement.

"The amendment establishes new provisions that will improve program transparency and better target funding to projects that will extend broadband service to unserved areas," said NCTA in a statement. "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."

Over in the House, Republicans took aim at RUS and NTIA broadband funding programs during their vetting of the Farm Bill.