Background

Lack of adequate broadband access continuously impacts the ability to carry out day-to-day work for farmers, students and teachers and other business people.  Recently, funding for rural broadband has been increased, and there is additional funding outlined in the Farm Bill. Inadequate mapping of service areas is another issue revolving around rural broadband.  This topic is covered in more detail in our state legislative provisions.

Status

President Donald Trump’s proposed infrastructure plan names broadband as an eligible project in three separate programs, including the Rural Infrastructure Program. Under the proposal, $50 billion would be allocated toward this program, and 80% would be distributed to the states as block grants. President Trump’s infrastructure plan also broadens the eligibility of use for Private Activity Bonds (PABs) to include rural broadband service facilities.

Missouri Farm Bureau Policy

Access to high-quality voice, data, graphics and video via the Internet is increasingly important in our schools, hospitals, businesses and homes. As such, we support the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) definition for broadband (25 megabits per second download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed). We encourage investments in rural areas to provide high-speed fiber or other types of networks that will meet and exceed the FCC’s standard.

We believe the goals of the USDA Rural Utilities Service’s broadband program should be to assist broadband providers in expanding high-speed internet access to under-served areas and to promote competition in under-served areas to lower the price of high-speed internet access for consumers. USDA and Congress should use the Farm Bill and annual appropriations bills to modify the program to increase utilization of loans and grants in rural and under-served communities.

We support making rural electric cooperatives and other entities eligible for Connect America funding to provide “next generation” broadband access.