ASA Supports Rural Broadband Expansion
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), together with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), are the primary federal agencies responsible for financing and making broadband service available to rural communities by providing states, localities, and private entities with loan and grant opportunities to build broadband infrastructure. For states and localities receiving federal grants for rural broadband contracts through RUS involving construction, performance and payment bonds should be required on any construction portion to protect the financial interest of the federal government and to provide payment remedies for subcontractors and suppliers should the construction contractor fail to meet payment obligations. RUS broadband financing programs do not have clear bond requirements for construction connected with broadband infrastructure undertaken by loan and grant recipients. RUS programs provide loans and grants for water and wastewater rural infrastructure projects, however, rarely require provisions for performance and payment bonds on such construction projects. Therefore, RUS should have consistent policies to protect federal taxpayer investments in rural infrastructure.