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Senate Farm Bill Amended to Address RUS Broadband Loan/Grant Issues - Broadcasting & Cable

Senate Farm Bill Amended to Address RUS Broadband Loan/Grant Issues

Sen. Warner leads charge to boost accountability and performance
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Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) Tuesday successfully spearheaded an
effort to amend the Senate Farm Bill, which he says will improve the Rural
Utility Service broadband loan/grant program. Cable operators appear to agree.

According to Warner's office, the amendment "provides
meaningful broadband access for unserved rural communities, improves government
accountability [requires more build-out info from recipients], and enhances
broadband mapping," the last by requiring RUS loan and grant recipients to
provide build-out data for the map so RUS will have more specific data on which
to base handing out the subsidies.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association,
which has concerns about how RUS hands out that money, particularly whether it
is used to subsidize overbuilding existing service, saw it as a definite
improvement.

"The amendment establishes new provisions that will
improve program transparency and better target funding to projects that will
extend broadband service to unserved areas," said NCTA in a statement.
"Given the scarcity of federal dollars, it is critical that government use
its resources efficiently by limiting subsidized overbuilds and focusing its efforts
on extending access to the roughly 18 million Americans currently without
broadband."

Over in the House, Republicans took aim at RUS and NTIA
broadband funding programs
during their vetting of the Farm Bill.

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