WIRED TO FAIL: Broadband in Rural America

The spirit of the law always had been for RUS to target its broadband aid to the most remote, neglected rural towns. In the earliest years of the broadband program, administered chiefly at the time by Bush-appointee Hilda Legg, RUS seemed to believe it had a much broader mandate — and it wrote multiple sets of rules that permitted it to provide aid to “any definable tract of land where fewer than 20,000 people live.” That metric essentially allowed areas under development or near larger, suburban areas to receive federal cash.
In the end, the watchdog’s probe found, “64 communities near large cities received loans and grants totaling $103.4 million.” These networks, in a sense, were easier to build: They were located in denser communities, where a lower price tag for buildout and a higher demand for faster service made it easier to recover costs. But they weren’t in the rural, unserved areas where many in Congress wanted RUS to focus its attention.

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