Friday, June 8, 2012

McCaskill: Ensure Resources for Rural Broadband Get to Rural Communities

With the Senate opening debate on the Farm Bill this week, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is aiming to amend the legislation to ensure resources set aside to expand broadband access in rural communities do not get diverted to projects in large metropolitan areas that already enjoy access to such services.

“Expanding broadband access in rural Missouri is necessary for growing local jobs and business, delivering health care services, and strengthening educational opportunities for our kids,” said McCaskill, who was born in Rolla, Mo. “But resources that are supposed to be used in our rural communities winding up in some of the nation’s largest metro areas makes no sense. Shining a little sunlight on how these investments are awarded will help ensure small towns in Missouri gets the job-supporting resources they’re supposed to.”

The Government Accountability Office and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Inspector General have identified continual problems with the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) broadband program awarding funds to projects close to big cities and in areas that already have broadband access.

Current law requires the USDA to focus broadband resources on areas where broadband is not currently offered, and to avoid supporting projects in areas with extensive broadband offerings.  McCaskill’s amendment would require the USDA to post information publicly online on each broadband application to allow broadband providers the opportunity to submit information about their service areas that may overlap with proposed projects. The amendment would also require the USDA to consult the Commerce Department’s National Broadband Map to gather information on current broadband services.   

The Farm Bill being debated in the Senate would reduce the national deficit by $23 billion by streamlining and consolidating programs and ending unnecessary farm subsidies, while strengthening the crop insurance program—critical to the livelihoods of Missouri’s farmers and ranchers.

A copy of McCaskill’s amendment is available on her website, HERE.

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