RUS recently made minor modifications to a final rule with regulations it previously adopted to implement the 2018 Farm Bill. The modifications clarify the regulations to indicate the RUS mapping tool will include information from applications for broadband funding. 88 F.R. 36217-01. More information about the pre-existing final rule is provided below:
The 2018 Farm Bill required modification to the Rural Telephone Loan Program. The final rule created the definition of “retail broadband service”:
Retail broadband service means any technology identified by the Administrator as having the capacity to provide transmission facilities that enable the subscriber to receive a minimum level of service equal to at least a downstream transmission capacity of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and an upstream transmission capacity of 3 Mbps. The agency may change the minimum transmission capacity by way of notice in the Federal Register. The minimum transmission capacity may be higher than 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream but cannot be lower.86 F.R. 50604-01
The final rule also removed the requirement for a certificate of convenience and necessity. And it allows existing service providers to respond to pending applications that seeks to provide broadband service outside of their territory that receives federal universal support.
(b) For funding requests outside an area where the applicant receives Federal universal service support, the public notice filing referenced under paragraph (a) of this section will accept public notice responses from existing service providers with respect to retail broadband service already being provided in the PFSA for 45 calendar days on the Agency’s web page.86 F.R. 50604-01
The final rule addresses several other aspects of loans for broadband funding.