COLUMBIA, MO, April 29, 2015 – Today, the President’s interagency Broadband Opportunity Council (BOC) announced it is seeking public comment on how federal agencies can promote broadband deployment, adoption, and competition. The Council, which is made up of 25 federal agencies and co-chaired by the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce, was established by a March 23 Presidential Memorandum. The Council's purpose is to explore ways to remove unnecessary regulatory and policy barriers, incentivize investment, and align funding polices and decisions to support broadband access and adoption.

In a request for comment (RFC), the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce are asking the public for input in helping to identify regulations and other barriers that are hampering deployment of broadband. The RFC is also seeking recommendations on ways to promote public and private investment in broadband and get a better understanding of the challenges facing areas that lack access to broadband. President Obama specifically noted discrepancies in access between rural and urban areas in the Memorandum, directing agencies to "pay particular attention to increasing broadband access for under-served communities, including in rural areas, and to exploring opportunities to reduce costs for potential low-income users".

“We live in a global economy. Living in a global economy means rural residents, businesses, students and educational institutions must compete in a global economy,” stated Missouri Rural Development State Director Janie Dunning. “In order to compete in a global economy, rural areas must have access to the systems where competition occurs. Unfortunately, many rural communities cannot access this system due to the absence of affordable, quality broadband.  The BOC is attempting to respond to the problem of inadequate or non-existent broadband service in rural areas. To do the best job possible, BOC needs feedback, so please comment.”

Specifically, the RFC is seeking comment on such questions as:

  • How can the federal government best promote coordination and use of federally-funded broadband assets?
  • What regulatory barriers exist within the agencies of the Executive Branch to the deployment of broadband infrastructure?
  • Are there specific regulations within the agencies of the Executive Branch that impede or restrict competition for broadband service?
  • How can communities and regions incentivize service providers to offer broadband services, either wired or wireless, in rural and remote areas?
  • What can the federal government do to make it easier for state, local, and tribal governments or organizations to access funding for broadband?

The deadline for submitting comments is June 10, 2015. Written comments can be submitted by email to BOCrfc2015@ntia.doc.gov or by mail to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue NW, Room 4626, Attn: Broadband Opportunity Council, Washington, DC 20230.

We strongly encourage interested parties to submit their comments and potentially help shape the direction of the Broadband Opportunity Council. This is a great opportunity to let your voice be heard!

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has an active portfolio of more than $208 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.  

USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

(Provided by USDA)