CCAGW Urges Conferees to Support Rural Broadband Reforms in Farm Bill

August 8, 2018

Dear Conferee,

You will soon consider in conference the 2018 farm bill. On behalf of the more than million members and supporters of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW), I urge you to support the Senate’s broadband reforms in order to rein in wasteful and duplicative spending on rural infrastructure.

Rural Utilities Service (RUS) loans have persistently funded telephone and broadband service with scarce assurances that the money is being spent in genuinely unserved areas across the country. Without transparency and oversight, RUS funding has in the past been used to build out in areas that already have private sector broadband service while other areas or regions have none.

Language in the Senate farm bill seeks to correct persistent programmatic weaknesses by ensuring that RUS grants and loans will not be used to overbuild in areas of the country where broadband already exists at or above a minimum standard of 25/3 Mbps. The Senate’s language also restricts loans to areas with two or fewer existing broadband providers, where 90 percent of households are defined as unserved. 

The Senate broadband provisions place the “highest priority” on loan applications that propose to provide broadband service to unserved rural communities that do not have any residential broadband service, and require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to verify that an area is unserved using data from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Federal Communications Commission. 

The broadband reforms in the Senate farm bill will promote rural broadband in truly unserved areas of the country; refine the definition of an unserved community; provide the opportunity for incumbent providers to attest whether a specific loan application area is already served by a broadband provider; and offer additional measures to protect against broadband overbuild using federal taxpayer dollars. 

I urge you to accept the Senate’s language on rural broadband.

Sincerely,

Tom Schatz
President, CCAGW

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