More than $600 million in federal support for the construction of rural broadband projects is being made available through the Department of Agriculture.
That money, according to a new report just released from the White House, is part of a larger effort coming out of Washington that is designed to provide a coordinated multi-agency approach to increasing broadband infrastructure in underserved parts of the country.
The Milestones Report notes that besides the $600 million Department of Agriculture program, the Interior Department has been tasked with mapping out more than 7,000 tower locations in rural areas that will be “available to service providers looking to locate equipment on Federal property as they expand wireless and wireline broadband networks.”
Meanwhile, the General Services Administration has been soliciting public input on what assets may be needed to expand mobile access in rural areas.
The overall Rural Broadband Initiative, says the report, is a “signature strategy to stimulate increased private investment in broadband infrastructure and services to fill broadband connectivity gaps in America.”
The initiative, continues the report, is designed to “drive changes across federal agencies to better leverage public assets and resources through partners to expand our nation’s broadband capacity.”
The initiative is also pushing for what it calls a “streamlined federal permitting process” that will “make it easier for network builders and service providers to access federal assets and rights of way.”
Noting that nearly 30 percent of the land owned by the federal government and managed by the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Interior, and Transportation is concentrated in rural areas, the report argues that towers belonging to those agencies should be made available for private sector use.
A new emphasis on federal, state, and local cooperation in getting rural broadband projects built, the report adds, is expected to result in a significant increase in such construction in the next year.
By Garry Boulard
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