California can offer a cure for midwest derangement syndrome

2 September 2018 by Steve Blum
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Monterey County’s former U.S. congressman, Sam Farr, used to call it “midwest derangement syndrome”. That’s the condition that seems to afflict federal agriculture department subsidy programs, including broadband development grants and loans.

It’s real. The agriculture department’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) has a long track record of favoring small states with lots of small farms in small counties. In other words, the sort of rural communities that predominate in the midwestern and southern U.S.

California has places where you can find traditional family farms with traditional farm families in residence.… More

Federal farm bills crank up broadband speed, options

2 July 2018 by Steve Blum
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It’s farm bill time again in Washington, D.C. Every five years or so, congress reauthorises and rewrites rural development and (urban and rural) food stamp programs. The U.S. house of representatives and the senate passed their own bills, and each has good news for broadband infrastructure development. So far.

The version passed by the house specifically allows the federal agriculture department’s Rural Utilities Service, which runs the major rural broadband infrastructure programs, to fund middle mile projects.… More

People matter, not paperwork, for rural broadband development

21 June 2014 by Steve Blum
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The success of broadband subsidies targeted to rural areas should be evaluated, at least in part, on the number of rural subscribers projects actually attract. That’s one of the conclusions of an investigation by the federal government accounting office into $3 billion worth of grants and loans given out by the U.S. department of agriculture’s rural utilities service as part of the 2009 stimulus program.

There were two pots of broadband stimulus money back then: the NTIA’s broadband technology opportunities program and RUS’s broadband initiatives program (BIP).… More

Long shot for federal broadband grants in California

29 May 2014 by Steve Blum
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Federal broadband infrastructure grants are pretty thin. Earlier this year, congress approved $10 million a year for five years for rural gigabit pilot projects. The FCC is looking at putting money into rural broadband experiments, but isn’t saying how much. And the US department of agriculture’s rural utilities service – which usually just makes loans – has $13 million available now for “advanced communications technology in rural areas”, via its Community Connect grant program.… More

Twelve days of Christmas might end with broadband in a farm bill

13 December 2013 by Steve Blum
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Put your thinking toque on.

Democrats and republicans are reportedly finding middle ground on a re-write of the U.S. agriculture, rural development and food subsidy law, otherwise known as the Farm Bill. The two competing bills passed earlier this year both include money for rural broadband projects, but the house of representative’s version has only about half as much money in it as the senate’s. In either case it’s barely noticeable in a trillion dollar-scale package.… More

Rural broadband alternatives remain under the radar in farm bill negotiatons

19 November 2013 by Steve Blum
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The cloaking device seems to be working.

Rural development subsidies, including broadband construction programs, do not seem to be among the hot button issues as the debate in Washington continues over the trillion-dollar farm and welfare package known as the farm bill.

There are major differences between the broadband subsidies approved earlier this year by the republican controlled house and the democrat controlled senate. The house version more or less continues the current program, maintaining the focus on loans and keeping it at $25 million per year.… More

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.