America’s Electric Cooperatives support dedicating a portion of the $20 billion dedicated to infrastructure contained in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement to fund high-speed internet development in rural America. NRECA has called on Congress to dedicate at least $2.5 billion in each of FY2018 and FY2019 toward this effort, and suggest that the funds be provided to the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the US Department of Agriculture to implement the broadband deployment program.
Funds should be dedicated to developing broadband deployment in unserved and under-served areas of the country, and should be made available on a level playing field to entities with experience in rural infrastructure development. The new funding should be used to provide a combination of loans and grants to maximize the program’s impact, recognizing that low density has been and remains the largest barrier to broadband deployment in rural America. The program should recognize that loans could come from RUS loan programs or from private lenders. Under this proposal, entities eligible for existing RE Act loans would be eligible to supplement those loans with additional grant funds through a new pilot project. Additionally, the proposal suggests funding the existing “Rural Gigabit Network” program.