Funding Bill Provides $550M for Rural Broadband Program

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The bill expected to be approved by the House and Senate today to fully fund Federal government agencies through Sept. 30 provides $550 million for the Agriculture Department’s rural broadband loan and grant pilot program, which supports the creation of broadband infrastructure in rural parts of the U.S., according to a Democratic party summary of the Consolidated Appropriations Act.

According to that summary of the bill, the $550 million funding level for FY 2019 is $50 million less than the FY 2018 level.

The funding news follows the announcement by the White House yesterday of the American Broadband Initiative report prepared by the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture that the White House called “a significant step forward toward delivering the modern broadband infrastructure that all Americans deserve.”

The report, its authors said, outline reforms “dedicated to removing regulatory barriers and expanding opportunities for successful private-sector capital investments.”

“By empowering entrepreneurs, the American Broadband Initiative will strengthen our economy, make our country more competitive, and improve the quality of life for millions of newly connected American families – ultimately delivering the modern broadband infrastructure that every American deserves,” the authors said.

The report details Federal government actions to promote rural broadband including: 1) the Agriculture Department’s preparations to deploy a $600 million broadband pilot program; 2) action to make available to service providers access to 7,000 communications towers located on Federal property; 3) work by the General Services Administration (GSA) to further identify Federal assets that can be used by service providers to expand broadband service buildouts in rural areas; 4) action to create a “one-stop” location for broadband permitting information; and 5) action by GSA to revise common application form and quarterly metrics for permit requests.

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