Senate Farm Bill Sets New RUS Broadband Finance Standards

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The Senate has passed a Farm Bill whose broadband section reins in potential overbuilding of commercial broadband operators with government broadband subsidies. The bill, which passed overwhelmingly (86 to 11), "establishes new broadband standards for projects financed through USDA." That translates to reforms to the USDA's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) broadband funding program to better target the funds to unserved areas where there is no high-speed broadband, rather than to underserved areas where the money could be used to overbuild existing commercial providers. ISPs have long argued that government broadband funds should go to build out broadband, not overbuild it, and pushed the agriculture committees to square the RUS funds with that philosophy. Fans of the program argued that some overbuilding was necessary to make the more expensive unserved buildout portions sustainable. The Senate Farm Bill must still be reconciled with a House-passed version, which won't happen until after the July 4 break.

Senate Farm Bill Sets New RUS Broadband Finance Standards Senate Farm Bill Would Put New Limits on RUS Broadband Loan Program (telecompetitor)