WASHINGTON, March 10, 2011 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA issued a Notice of Solicitations of Applications and regulations implementing the 2008 Farm Bill for the broadband loan program. Building out broadband infrastructure remains an important Obama Administration priority to help lay a new foundation for economic opportunity to help rural America win the future.
“Broadband investments are an essential part of the Obama Administration’s effort to ‘win the future’ by out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building our global competitors,” Vilsack said. “Investments in rural broadband networks create jobs and economic opportunity for rural America. Broadband is critical communications infrastructure of the 21st century, and it is vital to building vibrant rural communities.”
The interim regulation for the Broadband Program requires that certain definitions affecting eligibility be revised and published annually by the agency in the Federal Register. For the purpose of this interim regulation, the agency has amended two definitions: Broadband Service and Broadband Lending Speed and Incumbent Service Provider. The application guide to assist in preparing of applications is available at: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/utp_farmbill.html
USDA’s Farm Bill broadband loan program has invested over $1 billion over the past decade in more than 100 projects nationwide. This loan program is fundamental to increasing access to broadband, which will enable rural communities to expand markets, compete in the global economy, and create high-paying jobs.
RUS is planning to schedule training opportunities to educate applicants on new program requirements, and how to submit complete and competitive applications. Dates for the training will be published on the USDA website shortly.
The notice is being issued prior to passage of the final appropriations act to allow potential applicants time to submit proposals and give the agency time to process applications within the current fiscal year. Upon completion of a 2011 Appropriations Act, RUS will publish a subsequent notice identifying the amount of funding available for broadband loans. Expenses incurred in developing applications will be at the applicant’s own risk.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of employees located in the nation’s capital and state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $146 billion in loans and loan guarantees.