Rural Internet Loan Situation

Chuck Zimmerman

Speaking of New York. There’s an interesting story in the New York Times (requires free registration) about rural wireless internet access titled “Money Is There to Aid Rural Internet, but Loans Are Hard to Get.” I’ve reported before on the USDA Rural Development program that provides loans to companies that want to install and bring more broadband access to rural Americans (farmers). This article quotes some folks who aren’t happy with the pace at which USDA is granting the loans, the requirements for getting a loan and with the amount of money they’ve given away so far.

However, it does quote representatives of USDA and companies that have benefited from the program. It appears to me that USDA is doing the best it can and is just trying to be careful with the money they have. Let’s face it. Whenever you depend on the government to do it for you you’re probably going to be disappointed and frustrated anyway.

The complainers aren’t happy at the loan applications that have been denied and that some traditional large companies have received the loans. I think this statement makes it pretty clear why USDA is being so careful and deliberate. “None of its telephone company borrowers have ever defaulted on a loan, though $30.4 million in loans for high-speed Internet access, or broadband, are in default now.”

We certainly need broadband out in the countryside but it’s getting there quickly. A couple that moved into rural Iowa and now can’t get broadband is the subject of the article. They claim to be in a dead space for the wireless access that’s closest to them. However, the article quotes a QWest representative as saying (the company is) “expected to have broadband in all Iowa telephone exchanges by the end of 2006.” I guess that they’ll just have to be patient for a little while longer.

This whole government loan program is part of President Bush’s initiative to have broadband access to all homes in America by the end of 2007. Keep that in mind as you plan your communications programs over the next 2 years!

Thanks to my good buddy Steve Mays for the heads up on this one.

Government, Internet