Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Thomas C. Dorr has announced the publication of new proposed rules designed to facilitate the further deployment of broadband services to rural communities nationwide.

"These proposed changes will improve broadband coverage in rural America," said Dorr. "Refining eligibility and coverage areas, along with increased emphasis on reaching areas with limited service are priorities within these proposed rule changes."

Dorr outlined several key elements of the proposed rules: Promoting deployment to rural areas with little or no service; Ensuring that residents in funded areas get broadband access more quickly; Limiting funding in urban areas and areas where a significant share of the market is served by incumbent providers; Clarifying and streamlining equity and marketing survey requirements; Increasing the transparency of the application process, including legal notice requirements, to make more informed lending/borrowing decisions; Promoting a better understanding of all application requirements, including market survey, competitive analysis, business plan, and system design requirements; and ensuring that projects funding are keeping pace with increasing demand for bandwidth.

Dorr noted that significant progress has been made in facilitating rural broadband deployment since the program began. Over 70 loans have been made totaling $1.2 billion for broadband deployment projects headquartered in 36 states. Through these loans, more than half a million households in more than 1,000 rural communities will receive broadband service.

Over 60 percent of these communities had little or no broadband service at the time.

In addition, as part of its 2007 farm bill proposal, the USDA has requested re-authorization of the broadband program through 2012. Because of broadband technology, to an unprecedented degree, people have choices about where to live and how to work.

From a rural development perspective, this allows rural residents to live locally and compete globally. Broadband is eliminating the barriers of distance, remoteness, and time that face rural businesses, teachers, and physicians.

Children growing up on farms, ranches and in small towns can have the same access to the best education our nation can provide. Rural citizens are offered access to health care and rural economies prosper and grow with new markets only a computer screen away.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to deliver programs in a way that will support increasing economic opportunity and improve the quality of life of rural residents. As a venture capital entity, Rural Development has invested over $76.8 billion since the beginning of the Bush Administration to provide equity and technical assistance to finance and foster growth in homeownership, business development, and critical community and technology infrastructure.

As a result, over 1.5 million jobs have been created or saved through these investments.

Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA's web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov