Thursday, March 10, 2011

Alert: Vilsack at USDA Releases "Several Hundred Million Dollars" in Broadband Funds

Final Federal Rural Telecom Funding Dollar Amount Is "In Flux" 03/10/2011 San Francisco - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack this morning released a new Notice of Solicitations of Applications (NOSA) for upwards of "several hundred million" dollars in new federal telecom funding targeted at rural areas.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

Secretary Vilsack stated, in answer to media questions on this morning's conference call, that the specific funding level will be approaching "several hundred million dollars", although the exact amount "was still in flux", subject to final discussions with Congress.

Appropriations for the program come from the 2008 Farm Bill.  

Vilsack stated that the NOSA was issued "responding to the concerns raised by the Inspector General, legitimately".  The USDA's Office of Inspector General has made a series of recommendations to Congress and to the Agriculture Department to reform the severe funding problems created by the Department's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) in the past. Under the Administration of former President George W. Bush, the Farm Bill's broadband program became a national scandal.

As we have reported since the the closing days of USDA's awards under the Recovery Act's broadband stimulus program, hopes of the U.S. telecom sector for continued federal subsidies for rural broadband rest with appropriations in the Farm Bill. That bag of goodies for American agribusiness issued every 5 years or so is the key federal broadband funding going forward.

Secretary Vilsack's announcement of this morning is as complex in the details behind it, as it is important to the telecom industry.  We urge our readers to keep checking back on this story, as we will post links to all our updates and resources keying off of this critical announcement.

Radio News Clip from USDA on Broadband Announcement will follow this alert with detailed information. 

Rural Telecom Funding provides a link to our Mailing List for updates on the dynamic realm of changing budgets, program rules, and funding flows for telecom in rural America.
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