Small Broadband Wary On Farm Bill

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The Senate passed the compromise farm bill, HR 2, notching a win for Democrats who opposed the House’s plan to impose tighter work requirements on food stamp recipients. The bill would raise the annual budget for Department of Agriculture broadband loans, loan guarantees and grants to $350 million from 2019 to 2023 and allows funding to go toward grants as well as loans. Other compromise farm bill broadband provisions include raising the “minimum acceptable level of broadband service for a rural area” to 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream – up from a previous 4/1 Mbps. The bill also includes $50 million annually for Community Connect grants; $10 million annually for grants, loans and loan guarantees for middle mile infrastructure for rural areas; and $10 million annually for what was previously known as the “Rural Gigabit Network Pilot Program” but which would now be known as the “Innovative Broadband Advancement Program.” 

The bill could receive a House vote as early as Dec 12. But some House Republicans are still bristling over the bill’s concessions.

Broadband groups are pushing back against the measure“While the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Report takes some positive steps towards improving rural broadband deployment, ITTA remains troubled that the Report would allow for the use of RUS funds to overbuild existing providers receiving federal support from the Federal Communications Commission’ universal service program,” said ITTA, which represents largely regional broadband providers.

Small Broadband Wary On Farm Bill Farm bill sails through Senate. Now it’s up to wavering House Republicans (McClatchy) Compromise Farm Bill Would Raise USDA Broadband Loan and Grant Budget