Subcommittee looks at ways to expand rural U.S. broadband access

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Rep. Rick Crawford, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development, and Credit, held a public hearing to examine ways to improve and expand broadband in rural areas and how to better coordinate future investments between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The Agricultural Act of 2014, otherwise known as the farm bill, ensures funding for Rural Utilities Service (RUS) broadband programs is targeted to the most rural areas, sets a minimum acceptable speed for broadband service, and requires greater transparency and reporting in the program. The FCC provides direct support to offset the costs of providing service in rural areas through the Universal Service Fund (USF). Although the USF was not designed to support broadband investments, the FCC has undertaken a number of reforms to fund broadband services that can support data, video, and voice service together. Members of the Subcommittee discussed how these efforts between USDA and FCC can be better coordinated so that rural communities have greater access to services that are readily available in larger communities and urban areas.

"Rural broadband is a critical, 21st century investment for areas like the First District of Arkansas. The financial challenges that come with building out these services for rural areas should be a focus of lawmakers in both rural and urban areas of our country.  I believe that the information provided at today’s hearing will serve as a springboard to more discussions about how to increase broadband access to the area that needs it most – rural America," said Chairman Rick Crawford (R-AR-01).

"Whether it’s in my home state of California or anywhere across the country, where you live should not determine the kinds of services that are available to you. Federal programs and private service providers have made great strides in deploying broadband but I believe that the federal government, broadband providers and public institutions still have a lot of work to do in bridging the divide between the haves and have-nots when it comes to broadband in rural America," said Ranking Member Jim Costa (D-CA-16).

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