BROADBAND BREAKFAST INSIGHT: Rural priorities are again receiving additional emphasis in the draft spending legislation currently before Congress. Though the proposed $600 million is lower than the $2.5 billion that some had been discussing, the pending Trump infrastructure package could allocate still more funds to rural broadband priorities. Although omnibus budget bills are considered “must pass” legislation, an array of political obstacles still hang in the balance.
Updated, 11:44 a.m. ET: U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue issued a statement noting, about the omnibus budget bill: “Increased support for broadband Internet access is in line with Administration goals and will be an important boost as we look to improve the economy in rural America.”
Congressional Spending Bill Allocates $600 Million in New Rural Broadband Funding, from Telecompetitor
New rural broadband funding is included in the $1.3 trillion congressional omnibus bill to fund the government this year. The bill calls for an additional $600 million to be distributed through the Rural Utilities Service (RUS).
The funding authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to create a pilot program within RUS that distributes the new funding in the form of grants and loans. There are details to be worked out, but the authorization calls for “expedited” delivery of the program.
A few conditions were mandated by the funding bill. They include:
- Ninety percent of the households served by any project funded through this program must be unserved or underserved and can’t currently have 10/1 Mbps broadband access
- Any entity receiving funds from the program is prohibited from overbuilding an existing RUS borrower
- No more than 4% of funds received through the program can be used towards administrative costs
(Photo of the Capitol provided by the Architect of the Capitol.)