Originally published: June 20, 2012
Last updated: June 20, 2012 - 5:33pm
The Senate passed on a voice vote an amendment to the broadband section of the farm bill that changes the way broadband grants and loans are distributed by the Rural Utilities Service.
The amendment sets up a competitive bidding process for broadband loans and grants, and eliminates the rolling application process that was previously in place. It requires a minimum level of grants for areas that are currently not reached by any broadband service, sets minimum broadband speeds for funded projects, encourages new entrants to the rural broadband sector and requires RUS loan recipients and grantees to map the reach of their broadband projects. Additionally, the amendment directs the Department of Agriculture to devote 1% of RUS appropriated funds to oversight and administration. The provisions were sponsored by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) with a bipartisan group of co-sponsors including Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and the ailing Mark Kirk (R-IL). Farm bill sponsor Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) backed the change.
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