TPA Blasts Gibson Amendment to increase Rural Utilities Service Broadband Program by $10 million
Today, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance urged House Agriculture Committee members to vote against an amendment by Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) which would increase funding for the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Broadband Loan program from $25 million to $35 million, of which $10 million is for grants that DON'T have to go to unserved areas.
RUS’s primary goal is to provide loans to help bring Internet broadband service to unserved rural communities, which are generally defined as communities with populations of less than 20,000. A March, 2009 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) observed that while the 2008 Farm Bill modified the broadband program and narrowed the definition of “rural area,” the RUS continued to issue loans in exurban and suburban areas. Instead of funding deployment in unserved rural areas, the RUS had funded service in 148 communities which were within 30 miles of cities with 200,000 inhabitants, including communities near very large urban areas such as Chicago and Las Vegas.
That same report reiterated that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) remained concerned that the existing broadband program may not meet the Recovery Act’s objective of awarding funds “to projects that provide service to the most rural residents that do not have access to broadband service.”
According to a report by the USDA on April 23, 2012, “We found that RUS had not maintained its focus on rural communities most in need of Federal assistance. This is largely because its definition of ‘rural area,’ although within the statutory guidelines, was too broad to distinguish between suburban and rural communities. As a result, RUS issued over $103.4 million in loans to 64 communities near large cities.”