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TIA calls on Congress to fully fund Rural Broadband Program

WASHINGTON-The Telecommunications Industry Association on Wednesday called on Congress to fully fund the Rural Broadband program.

“The unfortunate truth is that many rural Americans are not able to receive broadband access. The Rural Utilities Service program helps break down the financial barriers that have created the broadband digital divide in our country,” said TIA President Matthew Flanigan.

Flanigan sent letters to the leadership of the congressional committees that fund agriculture programs since the money for the rural broadband program was authorized in the 2002 farm bill.

The rural broadband program had a tough time being included in the fiscal-year 2004 budget. In FY 2003, RUS made $1.4 billion in loans and loan guarantees available to provide broadband service in rural communities with populations of less than 20,000.

While the rural broadband program is technology neutral, some wireless carriers have complained that RUS rules restrict its availability to incumbents since RUS will not provide competing loans in the same service area.

Also on Wednesday the importance of broadband access in rural America was highlighted in the New York Times.

“The need to get high-speed access to rural areas is analogous to the rural electrification project that began to transform America in the late 1930s. One of the critical issues facing this country is the increasing economic and cultural isolation of rural communities-the abandonment and the ultimate redemocratization of the landscape. No business would settle in a town that lacked electricity, and we are now at a point where no business will settle in a town that lacks broadband access,” wrote Verlyn Klinkenborg, editorial observer. “My hope is that the wait will be worth it, as it often is with technology. Latecomers have a way of leapfrogging over early adopters. Rural America could end up with higher connection speeds than most urban and suburban customers now enjoy.”

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