Sunday, May 13, 2007

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture revamps rules for funding rural broadband projects

Dorr outlined several key elements of the proposed rules: Promoting deployment to rural areas with little or no service; Ensuring that residents in funded areas get broadband access more quickly; Limiting funding in urban areas and areas where a significant share of the market is served by incumbent providers; Clarifying and streamlining equity and marketing survey requirements; Increasing the transparency of the application process, including legal notice requirements, to make more informed lending/borrowing decisions; Promoting a better understanding of all application requirements, including market survey, competitive analysis, business plan, and system design requirements; and ensuring that projects funding are keeping pace with increasing demand for bandwidth.

Dorr noted that significant progress has been made in facilitating rural broadband deployment since the program began. Over 70 loans have been made totaling $1.2 billion for broadband deployment projects headquartered in 36 states. Through these loans, more than half a million households in more than 1,000 rural communities will receive broadband service. Over 60% of these communities had little or no broadband service at the time.

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