The American Farm Bureau Federation is urging Congress to help ensure rural Americans have the same access to high-speed broadband Internet services that Americans in more populated areas enjoy.

H.R. 5828, the Universal Service Reform Act of 2010, would declare broadband Internet a universal service, which would allow for direct support from the Universal Service Fund (USF). In a letter to Reps. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), the chairman and ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Communication, Technology and the Internet, AFBF President Bob Stallman said the USF should be used for long-term broadband deployment.

“Affordability is a critical component to broadband use in rural America because rural household incomes are typically lower than those in more populated regions of the nation,” Stallman said. “In rural areas where broadband service is available, our members have reported the service is beyond the financial means of many residents of their communities.”

Stallman called high-speed broadband Internet “vital” for rural Americans to access educational, medical, business and government services. He said passage of H.R. 5828 would develop a new cost model for universal support, which would make broadband more affordable to rural Americans.

“Rural business owners need access to new markets and well-educated employees for their businesses,” Stallman said. “Rural health care providers need access to health information technology. Rural students need access to educational resources and continuing education opportunities. Current and future generations of rural Americans will be left behind their fellow citizens if they are without affordable high-speed broadband service to tap into health care and educational services, government agencies and new business opportunities.”