Multichannel News: GOP Bills Target RUS Funds to Unserved Area

Republican-backed bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to ensure that government money targeted to subsidize rural broadband, a White House and FCC priority, is not going to overbuild existing service.

The Reprioritizing Unserved Rural Areas and Locations (RURAL) for Broadband Act of 2018 has been introduced in the House by Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and and the Senate by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), two states that are about as rural as they get.

The bill prioritizes Rural Utility Service (RUS) funds to unserved areas over underserved areas. One of ISPs’ big issues with the RUS dispensation of broadband stimulus funding was that it was not targeted to unserved areas, allowing for overbuilding of commercial service with government subsidies.

Fans of the program argued that some overbuilding was necessary to make the more expensive unserved buildout portions sustainable.

Cramer has also proposed establishing a Rural Telecommunications Office to help coordinate among the RUS, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, the White House’s chief telecommunications adviser and the FCC’s Universal Service Fund administrator.

NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association has endorsed the bill, according to Cramer.

“Deploying broadband to rural America takes coordinated efforts from Congress and the managing agencies. With this legislation, Congress is ensuring funds are being effectively distributed to unserved areas,” he said in a statement.