Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Shelley Capito (R-WV) have introduced the Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program (“B-CROP”) Act. The legislation would make grant funding available for rural broadband projects in high-need areas to be awarded in combination with the current loan funding available through USDA’s Rural Utilities Service.
Specifically, the B-CROP Act does the following:
- Allows for grants of up to 50 percent of a project’s cost, and up to 75 percent for remote, high-need areas, to be awarded in combination with the current loan funding available through USDA’s Rural Utilities Service.
- Helps enhance the economic feasibility of projects serving rural and tribal areas.
- Gives highest priority to projects in areas that are currently unserved by high-speed broadband.
- Coordinates with the FCC’s Universal Service High-Cost Support programs to complement those federal investments, responsibly spending taxpayer money.
- Increases the authorized funding for RUS’s Broadband programs to $50 million per fiscal year.
- Provides adequate resources to private sector providers, including corporations, LLCs, cooperatives or mutual organizations, state or local governments, and Indian tribes or tribal organizations, to expand broadband access to unserved rural areas.
- Gives partnership projects special attention, including initiatives that leverage matching funds and that work with anchor institutions like health centers, libraries, colleges, universities, and other educational entities.