Prepared statements, but no prepared solutions for rural broadband development

2 November 2013 by Steve Blum
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We’ll get back to you on that.

Wednesday’s meeting between senators and house members from both parties, to discuss what’s known as the farm bill, set the table for ongoing negotiations over what’ll be in it, but didn’t otherwise show progress toward agreement. The farm bill is a trillion dollar package of subsidies for farmers, rural development projects and groceries for the millions of people in the U.S. that rely on food stamps. The house and the senate have competing versions with significant differences – including how rural broadband projects are supported, if at all – and it’s up to the farm bill conference committee to negotiate a compromise.… More

Rural broadband on the table as farm bill negotiations resume

27 October 2013 by Steve Blum
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Talks resume in Washington this week.

The future of rural broadband subsidies in the U.S. could be decided at a meeting, currently scheduled for Wednesday, between senators and members of the house of representatives in Washington. The house and senate have passed two very different versions of a bill to reauthorise a trillion dollars worth of farm-related programs. Broadband spending amounts to a small fraction of the total, in either version, so the main attention will be on the big money issues, like food stamps, crop insurance and direct farm subsidies.… More

Broadband faces another urban-rural divide in Washington

9 July 2013 by Steve Blum
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Is that a city pork or a country pork?

The fate of federal broadband subsidies in rural areas might hinge on a debate going on in Washington over food stamps. Every few years (five or whenever they happen to get around to it…) congress has to reauthorise the massive and complex system for managing and supporting U.S. agribusiness.

The farm bill, as it’s commonly called, has exploded far beyond crop insurance and commodity price supports. With a price tag approaching a trillion dollars, it’s become a vehicle to, among other things, direct federal funds toward rural development and urban social programs.… More

Eligibility for broadband subsidies harder to prove under Senate farm bill requirements

20 June 2013 by Steve Blum
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Trail of tiers.

The version of the federal farm bill passed by the senate has problematic requirements for documenting eligibility for the broadband infrastructure grants and loans it authorises. It sets 4 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speeds as a minimum. If an area does not have at least one service provider offering that level of service or better, then it’s eligible for construction subsidies, assuming all the other requirements are met.

To prove an area is eligible, though, the lack of service has to be…

(I) certified by the affected community, city, county, or designee; or (II) demonstrated on (aa) the broadband map of the affected State if the map contains address-level data; or ‘‘(bb) the National Broadband Map if address-level data is unavailable.


Federal broadband grants would help level the playing field for California projects

16 June 2013 by Steve Blum
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Big state, big farms.

The version of the federal omnibus farm bill that was approved by the U.S. Senate last week improves the chances of actually building broadband infrastructure in areas of California where no service currently exists. That’s assuming the lack of service can be documented and withstand challenges from competing providers who might claim otherwise, which is a separate can of worms.

The legislation, which still has to be approved by the House, allows the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to give outright grants to pay for broadband projects, in addition to its existing loan program.… More