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Counties Remain Eligible for Rural Broadband Loans

Tim Brown
TAC Senior Analyst

On Feb. 6, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced publication of a final rule to expand broadband service access in rural areas. The new Rural Utilities Service regulation finalizes interim rules previously issued in March 2011.

With the adoption of the final rule, applicants, including counties, must draw a service area map. Unlike some other programs, the Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantees Program will accept applications throughout the year on a rolling basis.

The program funds the costs of construction, improvement, and acquisition of facilities and equipment to provide broadband service to eligible rural areas. A rural area is any area, as confirmed in the 2010 Census, which is NOT located within one of the following two places:

  1. A city, town or incorporated area that has a population of more than 20,000 people; or
  2. An “urbanized area,” a densely populated territory as defined in the 2010 Census, contiguous and adjacent to a city or town with a population of more than 50,000 people.

Eligible applicants may be either a nonprofit or for-profit organization and the organization must be one of the following:

  1. Corporation;
  2. Limited liability company (LLC);
  3. Cooperative or mutual organization;
  4. Federally recognized Indian tribe or tribal organization; or
  5. State or local government, including any agency, subdivision or one of their units.

To discuss project feasibility, contact the USDA Rural Development office’s Texas field service representative. For more information on the Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantees Program, including more information on the new final rule, visit the USDA’s web site.