Tester Pushes to Fix Broken USDA Rural Broadband Initiative

After Only Approving Three Loans in Three Years, Senator Takes Aim at USDA Rural Broadband Access Loan Program

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester is pushing to fix a broken U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rural broadband initiative and expand access to high-speed internet across Montana.

Tester is taking aim at USDA’s Rural Broadband Access Loan Guarantee Program after reports surfaced that it only approved three loan applications during the past three years. Tester is demanding USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue identify the barriers that have kept the program from approving more loans for telecommunication companies to expand broadband access in rural America.

“Broadband is essential to our way of life in Montana and rural America,” Tester wrote. “It supports a wide range of activities with direct benefits to individuals, businesses and communities-such as healthcare delivery, education, commerce and economic development, and workforce training.”

The USDA created its Rural Broadband Access Loan Guarantee Program to help increase access to high-speed internet by administering low-interest loans and loan guarantees to construct and upgrade broadband infrastructure in rural areas.

Tester specifically wants to use the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization to tear down the barriers and to cut red tape so service providers can more easily access the loan program.

“In the coming months, I look forward to working with you to enhance USDA’s ability to help rural communities get connected to high-speed internet service,” Tester added.

As part of his #ConnectMT initiative, Tester is fighting to increase rural broadband access across Montana.

Tester is sponsoring the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act to direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a task force to identify gaps in high-speed internet connectivity for the nation’s cropland and ranchland. He also successfully pushed the FCC to modernize the Universal Service Fund to provide support to rural broadband carriers.

Tester’s letter to Perdue is available HERE.