WASHINGTON, June 8, 2010 – Jonathan Adelstein, Director of the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), recently sat down for an interview with C-SPAN’s “The Communicators” series. The interview covered a wide range of topics, mostly concerning the role of the Rural Utilities Service in bringing broadband access to previously inaccessible areas through grants and loans. Also participating in the interview was Howard Buskirk, an editor with Communications Daily.
The Rural Utilities Service was originally founded in 1935 as the Rural Electrification Administration. It has since focused on telecommunications services such as telephone service and, most recently, broadband Internet access. When pressed on his regulatory authority, Adelstein assured the interviewer that “We made sure that the rural utility services had authority to do broadband.”
RUS primarily acts as a conduit to underdeveloped areas for federal money either in the form of loans or grants. “So far, we’ve awarded about $1 billion [directly] and about $60 million in loans and grants combined,” Adelstein said. “We started with $18 billion in requests and whittled that down.”
Adelstein stressed that it was essential for prospective providers to have a sustainable business model, given that RUS does not cover operating costs, but only infrastructure investment. He added that the “rounds” process enabled RUS to fix a few early problems with the program, such as the short period of time in which applicants were able to familiarize themselves with the process. According to Adelstein, the second round was designed to lengthen this process to allow for better applicants.
When asked about when the second round would begin disclosing its awards, Adelstein told the interviewer to expect the first awards to go out around “Mid-July,” and that all funds would be obligated by September 30. However, Adelstein cautioned against viewing this as a decisive end point.
“Our commitment doesn’t end on September 30 when these funds run out,” he said.