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2000px-USDA_logo_svgThe United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced two significant changes to Rural Utility Service (RUS) provisions on the agency’s telecom programs. These two provisions include a change in the definition of eligible service areas and a change to the minimum broadband speeds that RUS recipients must deploy.

Previously, eligible service areas included those that lacked service in at least 25 percent of homes. The new requirement states that areas are now eligible if a least 15 percent of its homes are unserved.

USDA also changed its minimum broadband services levels to a 4 Mbps upload and 1 Mbps download speed standard.

The agency also authorized $10 million annually through 2018 for a Rural Gigabit Network Pilot Program. Funding will be awarded to broadband providers to serve areas lacking high speed broadband and recipients will have three years to deploy services.

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