New rural broadband development rules may aid N.H.

The USDA Rural Development Office has proposed new rules to hasten the deployment of broadband services to rural communities nationwide, including those in New Hampshire.

The rules are designed to promote deployment to rural areas with little or no broadband service and ensure that residents in funded areas get broadband access more quickly

Rhonda Shippee, director of business and cooperative programs for the New Hampshire and Vermont division of USDA, said lack of broadband coverage is still an issue in many rural parts of New Hampshire.

“New Hampshire has gotten to all of the population and employment centers of the state. The doughnut holes have been served; it’s the rest of the doughnut that needs service now.”

Coverage still varies from town to town, she said, with parts of Coos, Carroll and northern Grafton counties having only “spotty” service.

“Even the Hanover area has some poor coverage areas,” said Shippee.

She attributed the current lack of coverage to a variety of reasons, including lack of infrastructure and the size of the market.

“These rural areas represent the last mile. These are the last areas to be served,” she said.

With the proposed rules currently in the public comment stage, it’s too soon to tell what kind of an impact they will have on New Hampshire, she said, and, although she had not read the new rules in depth, “at least they are tackling the problem.”

A copy of the proposed amendments may be downloaded by visiting regulations.gov and searching on “Rural Broadband Access Loans and Loan Guarantees.” — CINDY KIBBE

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