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
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). In the 113th Congress, 2013 farm bill
legislation passed by the House and Senate (H.R. 2642/S. 954) includes the
broadband program reauthorization provisions previously contained in the
2012 farm bill.
Date of Report: September 20, 2013
Number of Pages: 31 Order Number: RL33816
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