Bringing Broadband Infrastructure to Rural Areas: Where is the Progress?

Broadband Breakfast Club
Tuesday, October 18th 2011
Clyde’s of Gallery Place

October 2011 Broadband Breakfast Club Event Description

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act promised to bring broadband infrastructure throughout the country. A major player in delivering on the funding was the Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The law provided a dramatic increase in funding for unserved and underserved parts of our country.

RUS loans have gone to a variety of “last mile” providers, both fiber and wireless. Some feel they compete directly against existing providers that are not funded by USDA. Given the sparse geographies of rural areas, and the economic development needs they face, are these loans and grants warranted? And, with less than one year until all projects must be substantially completed, where is the progress in rural areas?

Speakers for the event include keynote:

Dallas Tonsager
Under Secretary
Rural Development
United States Department of Agriculture

Dallas Tonsager was appointed by President Obama as Under Secretary for Rural Development and sworn into office in May of 2009. Tonsager has over 35 years of agricultural, business, cooperative and financial experience through his work as a farmer, businessman, and community, state and national leader. Prior to joining USDA, Tonsager served from 2004 to 2009 on the board of directors for the Farm Credit Administration, where he was responsible for regulatory oversight of the Farm Credit System. Tonsager served as executive director of the South Dakota Value Added Agriculture Development Center from 2002 to 2004. In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton selected Tonsager to serve as USDA South Dakota’s state director for Rural Development. In 1999, he was recognized as one of two outstanding state directors in the nation and received the national “Hammer Award” from then-Vice President Gore for his work as part of a team that reinvented USDA’s rural business guarantee loan program. Tonsager served as state director until 2001. Tonsager served two terms as president of the South Dakota Farmers Union. He also served on the board of National Farmers Union Insurance from 1989 to 1993, and was a member of the advisory board of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 1990 to 1993. Tonsager grew up on a dairy farm near Oldham, S.D. and has been involved in the family’s diversified farm operations since 1976. He graduated from South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science in agriculture in 1976.