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News Release

Release No. 0598.10
Bart Kendrick (202) 720-0698

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USDA Submits Comments to Support Development of the National Broadband Plan

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2010 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA has submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to support development of the National Broadband Plan based on the Department's considerable experience in financing broadband projects in rural areas. The FCC is implementing the plan to guide broadband deployment nationwide.

"Robust economic growth and job creation in rural America depend on the quality and reach of broadband networks, where distance and density restrain economic activity," Vilsack said. "Broadband networks create economic opportunity and open unparalleled access to health care, educational, cultural and public safety services essential for over 50 million Americans who live in rural areas."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Administrator Jonathan Adelstein submitted a letter in which he offered to make RUS data available to the FCC as the independent regulatory agency evaluates policy options to advance broadband deployment. He noted that RUS loan financing to rural telecommunications providers is "dependent on sufficient, specific and predictable revenues to ensure that all Americans enjoy the benefits of modern telecommunications technology." Only four out of the current 480 RUS telecommunications program borrowers do not receive federal universal service support for high cost areas. Adelstein said that the two agencies can work together to ensure that the "right mix of incentives are available to attract private sector investment into otherwise uneconomic areas."

RUS is a policy, planning and lending agency within the USDA and currently manages a $56 billion portfolio consisting of loans that support the construction of water and waste treatment systems, electric systems, and broadband networks in rural communities. RUS telecommunications program currently has over $4.2 billion in outstanding principal, which will increase substantially with awards this year under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The current rural loan portfolio consists of approximately 2,337 active loans to borrowers committed to building and upgrading broadband capable networks across rural America.

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 6,100 employees located in the nation's capital and nearly 500 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 nearly $142 billion in guaranteed loans and guaranteed loan guarantees.

RUS has decades of experience and data which can be used to test assumptions, compare models to reality and validate ideas.

To read the letter referenced in this news release click here.


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