S. 3240 – the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 – is a bit of a mess.
But there is a decent proposed amendment thereto – Virginia Senator Mark Warner’s, “to improve access to broadband telecommunication.” Its reforms should become law – regardless of the fate of the flawed Farm bill.
Senator Warner’s amendment thankfully scales back the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) broadband Internet loan program. And finally – for apparently the first time – applies some sort of standard to how and to whom the loans are made.
The RUS broadband loan program has been a disaster. 85 percent of homes serviced by a government-subsidized Internet company already had access to three or more private broadband providers.
We are crushing private companies with government-funded competitors – who often then themselves go out of business. Leaving these people – who pre-government “assistance” had one or several broadband providers – without any. And taxpayers billions of dollars poorer.
Senator Warner’s amendment sets up some rudimentary, seemingly obvious prerequisites to loan deployment. Most importantly, it mandates that funding go to areas in which at least 25% of households do not have a broadband provider, and that there is no more than one existing provider for the remaining 75%.
In other words, it greatly diminishes the damage done by the redundant, destructive funding of government broadband providers.
With 97-plus percent of Americans already having access to at least one private broadband provider, and 92-plus percent having access to two or more, the best solution would be to end the deleterious, wasteful and unnecessary RUS broadband “assistance” program. Senator Warner’s reasonable reforms are a marked improvement over the absurd status quo.