RCRC Rural Broadband Update: FCC and Rural Utilities Service

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that the next meeting of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (Committee) will be held on April 25, 2018 at 9 a.m. The Committee will hear reports and recommendations of its working groups on broadband deployment and discuss strategies for accelerating broadband deployment by reducing regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment.

This week, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report entitled Broadband Loan and Grant Programs in the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service. The CRS report highlighted multiple programs within the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) at the Department of Agriculture that are dedicated to financing broadband deployment. The Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program, the Community Connect Grant Program, and the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee Program provide financing for rural broadband deployment projects. In addition, the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program funds equipment and software (not broadband connectivity) in rural communities for telemedicine and distance learning operations.

The Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus, signed into law by President Trump on March 23, 2018, provided $30 million to the Community Connect Grant Program, $29 million to the DLT program, and a total level of $690 million for the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee Program. In addition, the bill includes $600 million in funding to RUS to create a pilot loan and grant program for new broadband deployment projects.

The RUS and other rural broadband programs provide strategic financing for broadband projects in rural areas where private investors are otherwise unlikely to turn a profit due to low-population density.

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