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Measures to fund broadband in Appalachia, increase lending to rural areas passed by U.S. Senate

The U.S. Senate passed legislation that will help bring broadband to Appalachia.

The five-year transportation bill, which passed last week, includes the ARC High-speed broadband development initiative. The measure “authorizes $50 million over the life of the bill for the Appalachian Regional Commission to provide grants, technical assistance, training and equipment to the Appalachian region in an effort to increase affordable access to broadband networks, distance learning opportunities [and] telehealth technologies and promote e-commerce applications,” states a press release from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the Senate majority leader.

The Senate also passed legislation to improve lending practices in rural and underserved areas, McConnell states in a separate press release. Concern has centered around the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a lending group whose “original definition of rural unfairly excluded a significant number of demonstrably rural areas and neglected to provide rural communities with any input in the process,” states the press release. “While the CFPB recently undertook efforts to revise its definition, it once again neglected to allow input from rural communities themselves.”

The Senate’s Helping Expand Lending Practices in Rural Communities Act “would create a process to allow areas to petition the CFPB with important local information for reconsideration of their rural status,” states the press release. “This would give rural counties across the country a voice when the CFPB has incorrectly deemed them ‘non-rural.’ The bill also takes important steps to address the challenges rural communities face by eliminating arbitrary mortgage origination requirements that will help ensure that rural communities bordering urban areas are still able to access credit services that are essential to rural small businesses and farmers.”

From the Rural Blog, a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues based at the University of Kentucky. The IRJCI is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org./em>

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