In a letter sent to the United States Senate, the Center for Individual Freedom today urged the preservation of common-sense amendment provisions within S. 10, the pending Farm Bill, that bring much-needed reform to the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Broadband Loan Program -- a program plagued by widespread redundancy, fraud and waste of taxpayer dollars.
Read the full letter below.
May 6, 2013
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
On behalf of over 300,000 supporters and activists across the nation, the Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF) urges you to help preserve common-sense amendment provisions within S. 10, the pending Farm Bill, that bring much-needed reform to the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Broadband Loan Program.
Specifically, we ask you to support the amendment sponsored by Senator Mark Warner (D – Virginia), which was adopted by the Senate during consideration of last year’s Farm Bill, and which would bring substantive reform to the RUS by requiring that at least 25% of households in an applicant’s proposed service area not have access to broadband. Congress originally intended in creating the RUS that its funds be used for “eligible rural communities in which broadband service is not available to residential customers.” Unfortunately, however, the program instead misdirects significant resources to areas that already possess broadband service.
Moreover, investigations in recent years, including an audit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General (IG), have revealed that the RUS is plagued by widespread redundancy, fraud and waste. According to the IG’s February 2011 testimony, in 2004 “159 of the 240 communities associated with the loans (66 percent) already had preexisting broadband service.” That, in turn, led the IG to note that the practice “could create an uneven playing field for providers already operating without Government subsidies,” and ask the rhetorical question: “Why should one provider be given a Government loan or grant when another provider offers service without that assistance?”
By ignoring the unserved areas, the RUS is wasting precious taxpayer dollars and neglecting remaining rural areas where broadband service doesn’t yet exist. In an era of record deficits and debt, as well as regulatory dysfunction, that simply cannot continue. In the absence of eliminating RUS altogether, CFIF therefore encourages Congress to bring critical reform to the program.
The Warner amendment was included in S. 10, the new Farm Bill iteration introduced in January 2013, and we ask that you help ensure that it remains, including outreach to Committee on Agriculture Ranking Member Thad Cochran to maintain it in the base language. At a minimum, all RUS applicants should demonstrate that their proposed services will cover areas that don’t already possess existing broadband providers.
Thank you very much for your attention to this extremely important matter.
Timothy H. Lee
Sr. Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs