Improving Rural Broadband Access with Interagency Agreement

Brian German Agri-Business

Multiple federal agencies will be improving broadband access through a new interagency agreement. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will be coordinating a comprehensive approach to broadband. A recently signed interagency agreement will enable better communication between federal agencies. The agreement will also allow for a more coordinated distribution of broadband deployment funding. Under the agreement, the agencies will share information about broadband funding through the FCC’s High-Cost Programs, Rural Utilities Service programs of USDA, and NTIA programs.

Broadband Access

“Broadband internet is the new electricity. It is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, health care, and to stay connected,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release. “This is why, under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA remains committed to being a strong partner with rural communities and our state, Tribal, and federal partners in building ‘future proof’ broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas so that we finally reach 100 percent high-speed broadband coverage across the country.”

As part of the interagency agreement, the federal partners will communicate information regarding existing or planned projects receiving funding. Other information to be shared includes the levels of service in a specified area, what providers are in the area, broadband speeds and technologies deployed, and the overall scope of broadband service. Agency partners will also be required to consider broadband coverage data when making funding decisions. The agreement is expected to provide a more structured implementation of action for improving broadband access.

“Access to reliable, affordable high-speed broadband is critical to the economic well-being of communities and small businesses across America,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “Today’s announcement lays important groundwork for collaboration between agencies to ensure the federal government’s efforts to expand broadband access are as effective and efficient as possible, reaching every corner of the country.”

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West