Lennard G. Kruger Specialist in Science and Technology Policy
Given the large potential impact broadband access may have on the
economic development of rural America, concern has been raised over a “digital
divide” between rural and urban or suburban areas with respect to
broadband deployment. While there are many examples of rural communities
with state of the art telecommunications facilities, recent surveys and studies
have indicated that, in general, rural areas tend to lag behind urban and
suburban areas in broadband deployment.
Citing the lagging deployment of broadband in many rural areas, Congress and
the Administration acted in 2001 and 2002 to initiate pilot broadband loan
and grant programs within the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) at the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA). Subsequently, Section 6103 of the Farm Security
and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171) amended the Rural
Electrification Act of 1936 to authorize a loan and loan guarantee program to
provide funds for the costs of the construction, improvement, and
acquisition of facilities and equipment for broadband service in eligible
rural communities. The RUS/USDA houses two assistance programs exclusively
dedicated to financing broadband deployment: the Rural Broadband Access Loan
and Loan Guarantee Program and the Community Connect Grant Program.
For the broadband loan program, the Administration’s FY2013 budget proposal
requested $8.915 million to subsidize a loan level of $94.139 million. The
Administration requested $13.379 million for broadband grants in FY2013.
The Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2013 (P.L. 112-175) funds RUS
programs for the first six months of FY2013 at an increase of 0.612% of the FY2012
level. Under the FY2013 continuing resolution, the broadband loan program is
funded at $6.03 million (supporting a loan level of approximately $63
million) and the Community Connect grant program is funded at $10.435
The 110th Congress considered reauthorization
and modification of the loan and loan guarantee program as part of the
2008 farm bill. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 became law
on June 18, 2008 (P.L. 110-246). Title VI (Rural Development) contains authorizing
language for the broadband loan program.
The 112th Congress considered reauthorization
of the broadband loan program in the 2012 farm bill. While the 2012 farm
bill was not enacted by the 112th Congress,
Title VII of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 extended farm bill
programs by one year (through September 30, 2013). The 113th Congress is likely to again address RUS broadband loan program
reauthorization issues in a 2013 farm bill.
Date of Report: January 4, 2013
Number of Pages: 35 Order Number: RL33816 Price: $29.95
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