Skip to comments.The Farm Bill and Broadband Access
Posted on 06/14/2012 7:42:55 AM PDT by 92nina
I know what youre thinking: what does a piece of legislation guiding American agriculture programs have to do with broadband access? And youre right to be asking that question since the answer should be: nothing. As weve frequently written, the USDA has long run a program to hand out taxpayer-subsidized loans to rural broadband companies. This time, however, some lawmakers are finally questioning the programs value.
Little positive can be said about USDAs Rural Utilities Service broadband loans. With a budget that hovers around $800 million, the program has a long history of waste, fraud, and abuse. The USDAs Inspector General has reported at least five times that the program strayed from its statutory mission of subsidizing rural providers in under- and un-served areas with little to no broadband service. One study found that 85 percent of homes serviced by a subsidized company already had access to three or more broadband providers. The loans are crony capitalism, used to overbuild and crowd out privately funded companies. Worst of all, companies reliant on taxpayer-backed loans often go belly up and have cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars all for naught.
So, with the Senate in the midst of debate over the Agricultural Reform, Food, and Jobs Act, which would reauthorize the RUS broadband loans, Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) is pushing an amendment to scale back the program. Amongst other things, the Warner amendment would require that loans go to areas where at least 25 percent of households are completely unserved and would require loan recipients to report on their progress. Ideally, the RUS broadband loan program would be scrapped entirely, but the Warner takes a small step to scaling it back that could be palatable enough to entice other Senators to join the cause.
So what is the best way to get broadband access to the last 5 percent of American homes that go without? For one thing, more focus should be put on wireless options, such as mobile and satellite broadband. That however requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to do significantly more to free spectrum for mobile and satellite use. As AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson recently argued in the Wall Street Journal, there are large quantities of unused and inefficiently used spectrum that must be put on the market. Spectrum is the most necessary infrastructure for wireless broadband and with mobile data usage doubling annually a lack of adequate spectrum could cause prices to rise, download speeds to slow, and service to degrade. On the satellite side, this requires the FCC to approve satellite and ground networks, like those proposed by LightSquared and Dish Network.
Yet instead the federal government goes about subsidizing broadband through programs like that contained in the farm bill, killing mergers like AT&T/T-Mobile that would have used spectrum more efficiently, squashing new satellite broadband businesses like LightSquared, and (thus far) stalling deals like Verizon-SpectrumCo that would bring new spectrum online. If our goal is more access to broadband, the federal government has yet to really start helping.
The construction of the nation’s broadband backbone has been the largest privately funded construction project in the history of the world. No kidding.
The cable TV construction in the 80’s has lead to the broadband expansion of the last twenty years or so.
Yes, more should be done to allow higher speed access through wireless and sat delivery. Competition is fine. But that can be managed by regulatory change, not forcing companies to build to that last home.
In the end, watch how the Feds will eventually try to take over the system, saying it is in the “public good.”
Free Cell Phones Increase 467% Under Obama
I’m four miles out of town, Fiber was laid along the right of way more than 10 years ago.
I still don’t have DSL or wireless available.
Government spending is just BS. It accomplishes nothing but feathering the nests of cronies and waste.
Yet another cause that the incompetent government should avoid. Since the subsidy ostensibly benefits rural households, or if amended areas where 25% of the households are un-served, the objective falls flat right at the outset. For households, satellite is always an option, so if 25%, or even 100% of the households are un-served, its by choice. I live 8 miles from town, and half that distance from the nearest broadband facilities, yet I have 9 Mbps two-way bandwidth, and for little cost. And, Ive achieved that with an investment lf less than $500. My connection works so well that I now work from my office at home, enjoying the same capability as is available in the office for both voice and data communications. I even provide a 1.5 Mbps broadband connection to some of my neighbors, without charge. Ive used the same equipment for a 30 mile link when camping, and a colleague and I have a 90 mile link with 1 Mbps bandwidth.
In turn my neighbors contribute to the cost of maintaining our common road that I maintain with my 1946 Ford tractor. The 60+ year old tractor still runs like new, also with any help from the government.
The 1st point is, the inefficient government agencies and their fraud plagued programs are not needed. Americans, if left alone, can see to their needs, as has been the case for the past two centuries. The 2nd point is anyone can have the bandwidth I enjoy with a little creativity and a relatively small investment although I have little doubt the government could do the same at only 100 or 1000 times the cost.
I’ve got a real novel idea. How about putting stuff in the farm bill that has to do with farmers and farming. No food stamps, no general handouts. Put all these programs in a HUD/HHS instead of making them a part of a department that is totally unrelated.
Many farmers and ranchers can afford satellite broadband especially since they could likely deduct the cost as a business expense if the use the Internet to access market info, order parts for farm machinery etc. Those who live in small towns also increasingly have broadband service. For example Golden West Telecommunications, founded in Wall, SD (home of tourist attraction Wall Drug) provides broadband Internet service in many very small towns throughout western, and eastern South Dakota. However there are some places too isolated to have broadband, but consider the population numbers. In South Dakota there are communities of less than 100 people many of whom don’t care about Internet service. To pour taxpayers money into building broadband services so six people in West Overshoe can have fast Internet is a waste of money. These rural areas also don’t have Starbucks or shopping malls either so should the government subsidize building those services too?
I would like to get some details on your set-up. My Dad would lives in a rual area and broadband is not available.
Same as Sarevok, how about a few tech and contact details when you have some time?
It would be very much appreciated.
Ping me if it comes up, thanks.
Step 1... put a dollar amount to this scam. Hoodies can call their dealers on their own dime.
Step 2... Transfer the money to save the lives of children with horrible diseases, old folk who can't afford health care.
Step 3... Look for similar extortion expenses, rinse and repeat.
This is a nice try; not buying it.
I live in a city of over 200,000 and still really really wish I could get 100% fibre-optic high speed internet cable.
But I would never, except in nightmares, that I would want government, or government pork, to provide it for me.
That always ends badly. For the taxpayer, and for the user who hasn't grasped the concept of "strings attached."
The fiber was probably just going somewhere else. The fiber goes to a point in a neighborhood where it can be decoded and shoved to the home via copper wire. You just wouldn’t tap into a fiber to feed a single house. The demod equipment is tens of thousands to put in. That would be one helluva cable bill.