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

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

"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

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

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.