September 14, 2009 - RUS Administrator to NTCA: Broadband is Essential Opportunity

Arlington, Va., September 14, 2009 - In his first address to a trade association, Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Administrator Jonathan Adelstein told attendees at the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association's (NTCA) Fall Conference in New York City today that the broadband they deliver can transform their rural communities into economic powerhouses-the biggest challenge is getting broadband out and getting people to take it.

Adelstein said that he is focused more than ever on the rural telecom broadband picture, calling it his "passion," and that "small rural communications companies and cooperatives embody the ideas we share in the administration." Adelstein also told the group that they share the belief that "we can't let rural Americans fall behind in technology." 

Adelstein pointed to the electrification of rural America and the many benefits it brought, emphasizing that broadband will do the same thing.  "Broadband is today's rural platform by which we can raise the standard of living for every American-just as electricity was a century ago," he said.

Regarding the broadband grant projects overseen by RUS and NTIA, Adelstein said they are working to carry out the goals of the Recovery Act, and trying to spend the resources wisely.  "We want to obligate funds and get them out the door by the end of the year," he said.  Adelstein went on to say that the administration is seeking an accurate picture of unserved and underserved broadband areas-and that to get that accurate picture they need the help of NTCA members.  He suggested that the administration would be doing additional outreach to ensure all communities are heard.

Adelstein observed that NTCA members' broadband programs are geared toward building and sustaining the economy of their rural communities, and that the investments made in these rural communities can help lead the economic recovery.  To that end, he encouraged NTCA members to continue using RUS programs to grow and enhance their broadband footprint, saying that RUS is the premiere lender for rural telecom, and "partners" with them.

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"Rural utilities are often community leaders. We encourage you to look at all of all the programs that USDA's Rural Development offers and help target these funds toward rural business, housing and utilities investments to help your communities compete in today's global economy."

Adelstein told the group that there will be another NOFA for the next wave of grants in November. He said the groups will hold workshops in the meantime to gather information and "make sure we do this right."  He invited the audience of rural communications providers to "help us do better" by providing feedback.  He also discussed the possibility of getting out to see some of the broadband projects for himself, noting "I may be coming to a town near you soon."   

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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.