Monday, April 18, 2011

USDA Will Issue $400 Million in Broadband Loan Funds This Year

An Exclusive Breaking News Report from

(Editor's Note -- The carry over of this program's unspent funds into federal fiscal year 2013 is updated by us in this story of October 4, 2012: USDA: 'We're Still Issuing Farm Bill Broadband Loans'.) 04/18/2011 San Francisco - The U.S. Department of Agriculture will issue $400 million in loans to rural service providers this federal fiscal year under the Farm Bill Broadband Loan Program.

This information has been confirmed for this publication on background by an authoritative source at USDA within the past hour.

The $400 million figure is the nearest estimate of “program level” loans – the total in loan dollars to be issued – by the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of USDA for the current fiscal year ending September 30, 2011.

The information release on background to this publication gives more granular confirmation and specificity to the previous estimates of loan funding this year in the range of ‘$300 million to $ 400 million,’ we reported previously.

Our sources at USDA, on Capitol Hill, and in trade associations representing rural carriers have all at times had more questions than answers about current year funding for the Program, as it has been at high risk of full cutbacks in Congress.

With Chairman Harold “Hal” Rogers (R-KY-05) of the House Appropriations Committee, and fellow GOP Members taking the lead, the House attempted in several recent budgetary continuing resolutions (CRs) to cut the program level of the Program to zero.

As they advanced the effort to zero out the Program this year, House Republicans and several Blue Dog Democrats in the lower chamber were largely responding to the lobbying pressure of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA). 

Opposing the lobbying efforts of “big cable” has been the work to defend the Program conducted by the National Telephone Cooperative Association (NTCA) and the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO). NTCA and OPASTCO are the two leading trade associations representing the interests of rural service providers.

USDA sources are confirming that in the final CR passed by the Senate on April 9th, House Republicans were successful in fully rescinding Broadband Loan Program fund carry forwards from previous years. 

As part of the budget deal cobbled together by negotiators from the Obama Administration, House Republicans, and the Democratic leadership of the Senate however, new appropriations were authorized. It is that new funding which allowed RUS, using its loan leverage capacity, to achieve the $400 million in program level funding which can now issue to provider projects across rural America. is still working with sources in government and industry to confirm what program level of funding remains in the other three tranches of telecom subsidies managed by RUS: The Telecommunications Loan Program, the Community Connect Grant program, and the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program.

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