2014 Farm Bill Continues RUS Broadband Loan Program, Creates Rural Gigabit Network Pilot Program

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The Agriculture Act of 2014 (H.R. 2642), more commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill, has been signed into law by President Obama.  Two provisions in the bill provide funding for the provision of broadband in rural areas. First, Section 6104 of the bill continues funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service’s (RUS) Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program, referred to as the Rural Broadband Loan Program, which provides loans for the construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities required to provide broadband service in rural areas.  The 2014 Farm Bill also directs USDA, in consultation with the Department of Commerce and the FCC to conduct a study of the ways that data collected under the USDA broadband programs could be effectively shared with the FCC to support the development and maintenance of the National Broadband Map.  Second, Section 6105 of the bill directs the Secretary of Agriculture to create a Rural Gigabit Network Pilot Program that will award funding to broadband providers to bring “ultra-high speed service” (broadband service that provides speeds of 1 gigabit per second downstream) to rural areas.  The Farm Bill authorizes $10 million for the rural gigabit program for each of fiscal years 2014 through 2018.

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