Topsham Telephone’s Davenport Testifies at House Hearing
October 23, 2006, Arlington, Va. - In testimony before the House Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture, rural development, FDA and related agencies, Charlie Davenport, General Manager of Topsham Telephone (East Corinth, Vt.) said that the RUS/REA broadband loan programs have enabled his company to provide its customers with state of the art technology, yet there remain troubling concerns about the program. Davenport testified on behalf of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA).
In his testimony, Davenport explained why Topsham - Vermont’s first communications provider to offer high-speed broadband in 100% of its service area - explored the RUS broadband loan program when local government representatives and business owners became frustrated with the lack of broadband access in the area.
"Many of [Topsham's] surrounding communities - that are served by a larger carrier - do not have access to broadband services…and economic development has lagged," Davenport explained. "Because of the lack of businesses moving into the area the tax rate for residents has steadily increased."
Davenport told the committee that in 2005 Topsham began looking into ways to finance broadband deployment in its neighboring communities. Noting that banks were reluctant to lend the amount of money necessary for the project, Topsham turned to the RUS program, and recently completed its application- "an extremely long and costly road for Topsham."
Davenport testified that among his concerns with the RUS broadband loan program is the fact that the loans are sometimes issued to entities whosetechnology is not appropriate to the situation or whose business plan does not include a universal commitment to the area, noting that "these scarce resources should not be used to blindly fund technology not suited for that terrain," he said.
He also expressed concern with the current program requirement that companies provide a 20% equity portion to qualify for RUS broadband loan funds—an issue which has been addressed by the House Farm Bill.
"Companies that have been in existence for over 100 years with a proven track record of excellence need fewer requirements," Davenport said.
View Davenport's written testimony
The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association is the premier association representing more than 560 locally owned and controlled telecommunications cooperatives and commercial companies throughout rural and small-town America. NTCA provides its members with legislative, regulatory and industry representation; meetings; publications and educational programs; and an array of employee benefit programs. Visit us at www.ntca.org.