broadbandSeveral groups representing broadband providers co-signed a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee asking them to change RUS broadband loan rules to focus funding on areas where either all, or at least 90%, of the population cannot get broadband today. Groups signing the letter include NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, ITTA – The Voice of America’s Broadband Providers, USTelecom – The Broadband Association and the American Cable Association.

The Rural Utilities Service broadband loan program makes low-interest loans available for companies deploying broadband in rural areas.

RUS Broadband Loan Rules
The letter notes that current rules for the RUS broadband loan program allow funding for projects in which as much as 85% of an area already can get broadband – in some cases from two providers.

“[T]his government subsidization of a competitor . . . is an inefficient use of scarce funding and puts a thumb on the competitive scale, undermining future efforts to sustain existing networks or to build out broadband networks in high-cost areas, especially when those networks are built with private risk capital,” the letter argues.

The letter also proposes a change to the definition of broadband for purposes of the RUS broadband loan program. The RUS recently set that speed at 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream, meaning that service providers may be able to obtain funding for areas lacking service at that speed. The letter argues that the definition should be 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.

Image courtesy of flickr user Sean MacEntee.

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