House committee asks USDA secretary about unused broadband funds

The USDA is being asked why funding for broadband expansion hasn’t been used yet. 

During a House Appropriations subcommittee meeting Wednesday, Texas Republican Kay Granger from Texas says over a third of America lacks adequate broadband, and the House Appropriations Subcommittee has provided USDA more than two billion dollars in the past four years, yet no funding has been released for fiscal years 2020 and 2021.  Secretary Tom Vilsack says, “The guidance we were providing to the industry was a bit confusing. We have simplified that guidance which will allow more communities to potentially access those resources and I would expect and anticipate you’re going to see the distribution of those resources in the very near future.”

Vilsack told the subcommittee USDA will be focusing on rural America having a minimum level of upload and download speeds to create opportunities for distance learning, telehealth, and operating rural businesses. “The reality is you can have broadband, but if download and upload speeds are not significant or not sufficient, you can check the box but you haven’t actually improved the quality.”

Vilsack says along with the physical connection, opportunities are needed for educators including community colleges to help train individuals to use the technology. “Young people certainly understand it. People my age maybe not so much, but we all ought to be able to use this resource.”

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