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Want Rural Broadband? WTB, USDA Has Cash

By | October 15, 2004

      The FCC‘s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) is teaming with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to launch and maintain the Rural Wireless Community VISION Program aimed at promoting more broadband wireless services in rural America. Specifically, the WTB will be working with USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to develop model rural communities, whose success then can be reproduced in other unserved or underserved parts of the country.

      Those who want to be a VISION testbed must submit an essay detailing what they’d like to see their communities offer in terms of wireless broadband services along with how such technology will benefit both business and consumer users. Those chosen to participate in the program will be given business, technical and financial assistance to do so. Applications for VISION program for the first quarter of 2005 are due Dec. 1, 2004.

      As of last April, the RUS fund has grown large enough to provide or to guarantee at least $2.211 billion worth of loans to deploy broadband in rural communities, a potential pot of gold for broadband equipment vendors and carriers alike. Projects worth an estimated $1 billion of that total already have been proposed and are awaiting approval, representing a huge pool to buy DSL, cable, wireless and other broadband infrastructure and access gear, which could include satellite broadband.

      So far, because the idea of satellite-driven ISPs is new to the game, none of the RUS funding has gone to satellite carriers. That doesn’t mean that it can’t, and this may be an opportunity to exploit this potentially lucrative marketplace.

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