Electric Coops Elbow Into Broadband Debate

— One point of contention as lawmakers reconcile competing versions of the farm bill ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline is whether to take up the Senate or House version of the bill’s broadband provisions. While groups like USTelecom and NCTA that represent big internet service providers favor the Senate provisions, electric cooperatives, which are increasingly getting into the broadband business, say the House got it right. Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, told John that the Senate bill, which says a community must lack broadband over 90 percent of its territory before receiving a federal broadband loan, is “way too restrictive.” He lauded the House version for making federal aid contingent on evolving broadband speeds and in using population density to prioritize grant funding.

— Electric coops are “a little frustrated” with how the FCC has managed its billions in broadband subsidies, Matheson added, particularly how the agency relies on census tracts and self-reported ISP data in determining which areas receive coverage and thus are eligible for federal subsidies. Although he’s pleased with how ecoops did in the second phase of the FCC’s Connect America Fund auction (funding awards were announced last month), he thinks the FCC has a ways to go. “For all the universal service money that’s been spent—it’s been over $100 billion since 2000—you’ve still got a bunch of rural America without broadband,” he said.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech [Emphasis Added]

See the highlighted text. Why have we failed our rural citizens?  Not enough voting clout? Thoughts?

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