The USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) recently announced its intentions to expand its already wasteful and duplicative broadband loan program in the amount of $103,747,517 for 23 different projects across the country. The states that are slated to receive these funds include: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
As has been seen with the RUS’ broadband loan program in the past, it is an extremely inefficient use of tax dollars. In a recent study conducted by Navigant Economics, researchers found that 85% of households in these rural areas already had access to 3 or more broadband services. Expanding broadband services to the few unserved or underserved households in these areas cost taxpayers $349,234 per household.
In one region of Montana alone, expanding broadband services to unserved households cost $7 million per house. This is hardly a justifiable amount of money and shows that broadband expansion should be left to the free market, making broadband projects more cost-effective and efficient.
RUS Chief Adelstein and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack should really rethink the decision to grow this wasteful program in light of these findings. Expanding the broadband loan program in the current economic climate is completely irresponsible and demonstrates a serious lack of fiscal restraint on the part of the federal government.