facebook linkedin twitter

Bipartisan Group Urges USDA to Use Narrower Guidelines to Allocate Broadband Funds

April 4, 2022 by Madeline Hughes
Bipartisan Group Urges USDA to Use Narrower Guidelines to Allocate Broadband Funds
Tubing used to to protect broadband cable from ground moisture. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — More than two dozen members of Congress are urging Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to ensure the funds set aside for rural broadband expansion make it to the most rural of areas.

The bipartisan letter urging the department to narrow the scope of who can get the loans comes as the department closed a recent round of applications worth hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and grants through the ReConnect Program. The department is also set to give out another $2 billion to underserved telecom providers, which was appropriated through the bipartisan infrastructure law.

Lawmakers are worried that new wider guidelines for applicants could push funds appropriated to serve the most rural areas to other broadband providers.

“We are troubled by the Round 3 ReConnect guidelines that could allow a new broadband provider to obtain funding to build a broadband network to serve the very same area awarded to another provider that has received funding from other programs like the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. 


“We are also concerned that reducing the unserved threshold from 90% to 50% for funding as required by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will once again shift dollars away from the rural areas that are most in need of broadband,” the legislators wrote.


The ReConnect Program awards grants and loans to broadband providers in areas with fewer than 100 megabits per second download and 20 Mbps upload speeds. However, it prioritizes providers in areas lacking internet access services of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds.

Access to broadband has been a top priority throughout the pandemic as many people were forced to work from their homes via internet connections.

To participate in a standard one-on-one Zoom meeting, the video calling platform that became ubiquitous with work-from-home setups, users should have 3 to 3.8 Mbps upload and download speeds for the best high definition video, according to its website. That’s per person, so if multiple people in a home need to use the internet for work or school there’s a need for higher bandwidth speeds.

This policy priority to expand access to broadband has created multiple funding sources through the Department of Agriculture, the FCC and others, as the legislators point out in their letter. Their hope is that the department can focus on allocating funds to the most rural of areas while there are funding sources for other broadband improvements across the country.


“As USDA implements the current and future rounds of ReConnect funding, the agency should carefully consider the impact of these policies on rural America. We encourage the agency to take every possible action to prioritize funding for communities with the highest percentages of unserved households and for communities that are not being addressed through another broadband funding program,” the legislators wrote.

Madeline can be reached at [email protected]

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

Broadband

May 9, 2022
by Madeline Hughes
Internet Providers Promise $30 Service

WASHINGTON — More than 80% of Americans will have access to high-speed internet plans for $30 or less, President Joe... Read More

WASHINGTON — More than 80% of Americans will have access to high-speed internet plans for $30 or less, President Joe Biden announced Monday. The partnership with 20 different broadband internet providers “gives families a little more breathing room to pay their bills,” Biden said from the... Read More

May 4, 2022
by Madeline Hughes
Bipartisan Bill Proposed for Oversight on Broadband Funds

WASHINGTON — There’s new proposed legislation to ensure the billions of infrastructure dollars flowing throughout the country to develop broadband... Read More

WASHINGTON — There’s new proposed legislation to ensure the billions of infrastructure dollars flowing throughout the country to develop broadband internet actually create sustainable infrastructure. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced the bill Tuesday, legislation that would require the Federal Communications Commission... Read More

April 20, 2022
by Madeline Hughes
Utilizing HBCUs, Black Churches to Bridge Digital Divide

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Implementation of internet and cell phone service was never equitable across the country. Much of the divide... Read More

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Implementation of internet and cell phone service was never equitable across the country. Much of the divide is rural versus urban, with population masses driving disparities. Race also plays a significant factor in the likelihood someone has internet service in their home. As... Read More

April 18, 2022
by Madeline Hughes
Creating the Broadband Nutrition Label

WASHINGTON — When an internet connection fizzles out or slows down significantly it causes disruptions for work, medical care, education... Read More

WASHINGTON — When an internet connection fizzles out or slows down significantly it causes disruptions for work, medical care, education and many other aspects of everyday life that have gone online because of the pandemic. And it’s frustrating to people like Alan Smith, who recently spoke... Read More

April 4, 2022
by Madeline Hughes
Bipartisan Group Urges USDA to Use Narrower Guidelines to Allocate Broadband Funds

WASHINGTON — More than two dozen members of Congress are urging Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to ensure the funds... Read More

WASHINGTON — More than two dozen members of Congress are urging Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to ensure the funds set aside for rural broadband expansion make it to the most rural of areas. The bipartisan letter urging the department to narrow the scope of who... Read More

March 21, 2022
by Dan McCue
FCC to Hold Next 5G Mid-Band Spectrum Auction Beginning July 29

WASHINGTON — Bidding will start in the next auction of 2.5 GHz band licenses for 5G wireless services beginning on... Read More

WASHINGTON — Bidding will start in the next auction of 2.5 GHz band licenses for 5G wireless services beginning on July 29, the Federal Communications Commission announced Monday. The ascending clock format auction will offer approximately 8,000 new flexible-use, county-based overlay licenses. These licenses are in... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top