NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association joined with three other groups yesterday favoring the Senate version of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (H.R. 2). The “Farm Bill,” currently in a House-Senate conference, includes continued funding for the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) broadband loan program. However, the groups said that the Senate version does a better job of preventing government support of broadband overbuilds in rural areas.
“The Senate Farm Bill better target[s] broadband support to unserved areas and limit[s] overbuilding, including overbuilding in places where broadband providers have accepted federal funds to support broadband connections, such as Universal Service/Connect America support aimed at promoting and sustaining broadband deployment in high-cost rural areas,” according to a letter signed by the CEOs of NTCA, USTelecom, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association and ITTA - the Voice of America’s Broadband Providers.
The groups noted that the Senate version requires that 90 percent of the areas seeking support be unserved. The e-Connectivity pilot program that RUS currently is organizing will use the same standard, they said.
“The primary goal of the Farm Bill and other RUS initiatives focused on financing networks should be to close the digital divide by bringing broadband to those Americans who lack that critical resource today,” the groups said. “These efforts should not be undercut by unnecessary and inefficient overbuilding in areas with broadband service or where providers are investing significant capital to deploy broadband in the near term.”