H. R. 4545
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
January 27, 2010
Mr. Murphy of New York introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, and in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned
To amend the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 to establish an Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives in the Department of Agriculture, and for other purposes.
This Act may be cited as the
Rural Broadband Initiative Act of
Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives
Title VI of the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 (7 U.S.C. 950bb et seq.) is amended—
by redesignating sections 601 and 602 as sections 603 and 604, respectively; and
by inserting before section 603 (as so redesignated) the following new sections:
In this title:
The term Office means the Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives established by section 602(a)(1).
The term Under Secretary means the Under Secretary for Rural Broadband Initiatives appointed under section 602(a)(2).
Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives
There is established in the Department of Agriculture an office to be known as the Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives.
The head of the Office shall be the Under Secretary for Rural Broadband Initiatives, who shall—
be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate; and
report directly to the Secretary.
The Under Secretary shall—
as of the date of enactment of this section, administer all rural broadband-related grant and loan programs previously administered by the Administrator of the Rural Utilities Service, including—
the rural broadband access loan and loan guarantee program established under section 603; and
the Community Connect Grant Program described in subpart A of part 1739 of title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (or successor regulations).
The Under Secretary shall—
conduct extensive, nationwide outreach to rural areas;
foster the development of a comprehensive rural broadband strategic vision;
plan coordination of Federal resources for State, regional, and local governments to assist citizens living and working in rural areas;
assess all relevant technologies (including WiFi, WIMAX, DSL, cable, satellite, fiber, and broadband over power lines), as the technologies are able to support in whole or in part rural broadband needs and requirements;
serve as a single information source for all rural broadband programs and services administered by Federal agencies; and
provide technical assistance to State, regional, and local governments to develop broadband deployment strategies.
Comprehensive rural broadband strategy
Not later than 180 days after the appointment of the first Under Secretary, the Under Secretary shall submit to the President and Congress a report describing comprehensive rural broadband strategy that includes—
to promote interagency coordination of Federal agencies in regards to policies, procedures, and targeted resources, and to improve and streamline the policies, programs, and services;
to coordinate among Federal agencies regarding existing rural broadband or rural initiatives that could be of value to rural broadband development;
to address both short- and long-term solutions and needs assessments for a rapid build-out of rural broadband solutions and applications for Federal, State, regional, and local government policy makers;
to identify how specific Federal agency programs and resources can best respond to rural broadband requirements and overcome obstacles that currently impede rural broadband deployment; and
to promote successful model deployments and appropriate technologies being used in rural areas so that State, regional, and local governments can benefit from the cataloging of successes of other State, regional, and local governments; and
a description of goals and timeframes to achieve the strategic plans and visions identified in the report.
The Under Secretary shall update and evaluate the report described in paragraph (1) on an annual basis.
National Rural Broadband Innovation Fund
There is established in the Treasury of the United States a revolving fund, to be known as the National Rural Broadband Innovation Fund (referred to in this subsection as the Fund), consisting of—
such amounts as are appropriated to the Fund under paragraph (5); and
any interest earned on investment of amounts in the Fund under paragraph (4).
Use of fund
The Under Secretary shall use the amounts in the Fund to fund experimental and pilot rural broadband projects and applications, including WiFi, WIMAX, DSL, cable, satellite, fiber, and broadband delivery over power lines.
Not later than 90 days after the date of appointment of the first Under Secretary, the Under Secretary shall submit to Congress a report that describes—
proposed rules for the administration of the Fund; and
proposed qualification guidelines for projects to receive funding under this subsection.
Expenditures from Fund
Subject to subparagraph (B), on request by the Under Secretary, the Secretary of the Treasury shall transfer from the Fund to the Under Secretary such amounts as the Under Secretary determines are necessary to fund projects under paragraph (2).
An amount not exceeding 10 percent of the amounts in the Fund shall be available for each fiscal year to pay the administrative expenses necessary to carry out this subsection.
Investment of amounts
The Secretary of the Treasury shall invest such portion of the Fund as is not, in the judgment of the Secretary of the Treasury, required to meet current withdrawals.
Investments may be made only in interest-bearing obligations of the United States.
Acquisition of obligations
For the purpose of investments under subparagraph (A), obligations may be acquired—
on original issue at the issue price; or
by purchase of outstanding obligations at the market price.
Sale of obligations
Any obligation acquired by the Fund may be sold by the Secretary of the Treasury at the market price.
Credits to Fund
The interest on, and the proceeds from the sale or redemption of, any obligations held in the Fund shall be credited to, and form a part of, the Fund.
Authorization of appropriations
There is authorized to be appropriated to the Fund $20,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2008 through 2012.
Rural Broadband Advisory Panel
Not later than 60 days after the date of appointment of
the first Under Secretary, the Under Secretary shall submit to Congress a plan
to establish a Rural Broadband Advisory Panel (referred to in this subsection
The Panel shall be chaired by the Under Secretary or a designee.
The Panel shall be composed of representatives of—
communications equipment vendors (including broadband data service providers);
public utility services;
local exchange carriers;
satellite communications services; and
other appropriate public or private sector entities, as determined by the Under Secretary.
The Panel shall meet not less than 4 times each year.
The Advisory Panel shall—
assist the Under Secretary in updating the annual report described in subsection (c)(2);
evaluate the effectiveness of all Federal broadband assistance programs and policies aimed at fostering broadband access in rural and underserved areas;
evaluate best practices employed at the State and local government level to foster broadband access in rural and underserved areas; and
cooperate with the Under Secretary in addressing and evaluating issues determined by the Under Secretary to be critical to fostering broadband access and connectivity in rural and underserved areas.
The Under Secretary shall establish a comprehensive and interactive rural broadband Web-based clearinghouse that describes options, opportunities, resources, successful public-private partnerships, comprehensive funding sources, and technology tutorials for rural broadband, including—
descriptions of best practices;
assessments of various technology solutions;
applications, including telework, telemedicine, distance learning, training, homeland security, senior citizen connectivity and program development, and business and economic development;
rural broadband options and policies analysis; and
support for networks among rural communities and economic development agencies.
Section 603 of the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 (as redesignated by subsection (a)(1)) is amended—
(d)(1)(B), by striking
subsection (k) and inserting
in subsection (j),
Administrator and inserting
by redesignating subsections (k) and (l) as subsections (l) and (m), respectively; and
by inserting after subsection (j) the following:
Not later than 60 days after the date of appointment of the first Under Secretary, the Under Secretary shall submit to Congress a revision of the rules and qualification criteria for the loan and loan guarantee programs under this section.
In preparing the revision, the Under Secretary shall—
emphasize streamlining the application process and processing time;
ensure that the financial requirements for applicants do not unduly disqualify applicants that have demonstrated a viable business plan; and
not diminish the mission of the program to deliver broadband service to underserved rural areas.
Sufficiency of resources
Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Agriculture shall submit to Congress a report describing the resources and staff necessary to carry out this Act and the amendments made by this Act.
Preparation of report
The Secretary shall provide the Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives the resources and staff necessary to carry out this section.
Comptroller General review
The Comptroller General of the United States shall review the report submitted under subsection (a) for validity.
Not later than 30 days after the date on which the report is submitted under subsection (a), the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to Congress a report containing the findings of the review under paragraph (1).