The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking for suggestions about how to implement the e-Connectivity Pilot Program, which would involve public-private partnerships to deploy broadband in rural areas. The framework outlined by Congress allows $600 million in new federal funds to be deployed in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less. Entities eligible for funding include incumbent and competitive rural telephone and broadband service providers, rural electric cooperatives, private firms (but not sole proprietors or partnerships), nonprofits and governmental bodies.
Rural areas that don’t have internet service speeds of at least 10 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload available to their households will be eligible to apply for the money. The USDA seeks input on the best options to verify broadband speeds and potential project benefits for rural industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, e-commerce, transportation, health care and education, using readily available public data. The USDA is specifically interested in how to make the most effective use of these new funds through utility partnerships.
Comments are due on or before 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Monday, September 10, specifying Docket No. RUS-18-TELECOM-0004. To submit electronic comments, go to www.regulations.gov and, in the lower “Search Regulations and Federal Actions” box, select “Rural Utilities Service” from the agency drop-down menu, then click “Submit.”
Comments may also be mailed to: Michele Brooks, Rural Development Innovation Center, Regulations Team Lead, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Stop 1522, Room 1562, Washington, D.C. 20250. Reference Docket No. RUS-18-TELECOM-0004.
August 1, 2018