An addition to the litany of ways our government is woefully behind the times…

I’m looking into the record of my senators. Senator Thune’s website is quite helpful. What I discovered there is not. Here is some text from a linked bill (reformatted a bit, since PDF hates copy/paste):

To modify conditions of funding for the distance learning,
telemedicine, and broadband program of the Rural Utilities Service, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa2 tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Connect Unserved Americans Act of 2022’’.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Public Law 117–58) is amended in the third proviso under the heading ‘‘DISTANCE LEARNING, TELEMEDICINE, AND BROADBAND PROGRAM’’ under the heading ‘‘RURAL UTILITIES SERVICE’’ under the heading ‘‘RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS’’ under the heading ‘‘DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE’’ in title I of division J by 6 striking ‘‘50 percent’’ and inserting ‘‘80 percent’’.

That’s all well and good, but how about a link to Public Law 117-58 with the change made – and hyperlinked back to this bill that made it – so we can see what “80 percent” means. This may be wonderful or it may totally suck and there is no way to know without much research.

It’s easy enough to find. But it is a 1036 PDF (do the world a favor, Adobe, and burn in hell) with no link-aware table of contents. Ctrl-F works, though. Page 932 is “DISTANCE LEARNING”. And to emphasize my point:

Provided, That of the funds made available under this heading in this Act, $74,000,000 shall be for the cost of broadband loans, as authorized by section 601 of the Rural Electrification Act:

Anyone feel like looking up section 601 of the Rural Electrification Act (of 1936, as amended (7 U.S.C. 901 et seq.)? Want to bet that the text is the original and that the amendment must be looked up separately? What else has changed it – over the last 90 years?!?!

Digression: I wonder what this is about?

For an additional amount for ‘‘Nuclear Energy’’, $6,000,000,000, to remain available until expended, to carry out activities under the Civil Nuclear Credit Program, as authorized in section 40323of division D of this Act

That such amount is designated by the Congress as being for an emergency requirement pursuant to section 4112(a) of H. Con. Res. 71 (115th Congress), the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018, and to section
251(b) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.

Ah. I scrolled right past the target paragraph. It’s the one I started quoting before the nuclear digression. Here’s the 50%:

Provided further, That at least 50 percent of the households to be served by a project receiving a loan or grant from funds provided under the preceding proviso shall be in a rural area, as defined in section 601(b)(3) of the Rural Electrification Act, without sufficient access to broadband defined for such funds as having speeds of not less than 25 megabits per second downloads and 3 megabits per second uploads:

Back into the Rural Electrification Act rabbit hole. Note that despite all this insane, paper-based cross-refencing “sufficient access” is not defined. I’ll search for it. There is only one other occurrence, in the next paragraph, and it has no definition, either.

At least search engines are indexing this stuff – too bad they can’t get inside the wonderful PDF content. Here’s the Act. Apparently, they were less wordy in 1936: It’s only 52 pages long. That’s also an updated version, since I doubt the original contained a section on broadband. I find it, hmm…, “interesting” that “rural area” is defined in the added section on broadband. Somehow, the act managed to exist for all that time without having previously defined it. Oh. This is “fun”.

(b) DEFINITIONS.—In this section:
(A) IN GENERAL.—The term ‘‘rural area’’ means any
area other than—
(i) an area described in clause (i) or (ii) of section 343(a)(13)(A) of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act (7 U.S.C. 1991(a)(13)(A)); and
(ii) a city, town, or incorporated area that has a population of greater than 20,000 inhabitants.
(B) URBAN AREA GROWTH.—The Secretary may, by regulation only, consider an area described in section 343(a)(13)(F)(i)(I) of that Act to not be a rural area for purposes of this section.

Lovely. A negative definition. (i), (ii), and (iii) are what it is definitely not and (B) is what it may not be. Want to bet that the Secretary has NEVER excluded an “Urban Area Growth” from the definition of “rural”? That’s where all the money is for the broadband companies.

As long as I’ve started down this rabbit hole, I’m going at least to the next level… Here’s the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act. And one cannot copy out of it. Have I mentioned that PDF is abominable and Adobe developers should burn in hell? What I was trying to copy is that version is as amended through PL 109-171, 2006, which is after 7 U.S.C. 1991(…). Does it count or does one need to backtrack to find an older version?

We have, thanks to my transcription skills:

Sec. 343 [7 U.S.C. 1991] (a) As used in this title:
(A) IN GENERAL. — Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph, the terms “rural” and “rural area” mean any area other than–
(i) a city or town that has a population of greater than 50,000 inhabitants; and
(ii) the urbanized area contiguous and adjacent to such a city or town.
[there is no (iii)]
[there is no (F). There is:]

(E) RURAL BUSINESS INVESTMENT PROGRAM. – In subtitle H, the term “rural area” means an area that is located —
(i) outside a standard metropolitan statistical areas; or
(ii) with a community that has a population of 50,000 inhabitants or less [sic – it should be “fewer”]
[This is followed by an out-dented (b), that is presumably 343(b), since that was all (a).]

I’m not even going to try to find the 1991 version of the Consolidated Farm Act. Even if I could, would the definition still be in force? Who knows? This is a horrible mess.

Note the lovely double-negative just barely avoided. I had thought the references to 343(a)(13)(A)(i) and (ii) were gratuitous and just (A) would have sufficed. However, 343(a)(13)(A) is a negative and so is 601(B)(3)(A). Without the (i) and (ii) references, the definition would have been inverted.

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