Federal Credit Fridays: Ken Kuchno on Investments in Rural Broadband Access

March 22, 2024 Anthony Curcio

Federal Credit Fridays with Anthony Curcio podcast

Welcome to Federal Credit Fridays! The U.S. government is one of the largest lenders and credit guarantors on earth. Its portfolio is estimated at over $3.6 trillion, as measured by loan assets and the face value of loan guarantees. The government uses credit for a wide variety of policy missions, including housing, higher education, small businesses, rural and urban economic development, infrastructure, and export promotion, among others. This podcast will familiarize you with the vast world of federal credit, and we hope that you’ll learn about similarities and differences between these programs as well as the importance of their work to achieving policy missions within the framework of public-private collaboration.

In today’s podcast, we talk about the recent and massive federal investment into providing broadband internet access to our rural citizens. For at least 20 years, successive presidents and Congress have made rural broadband access a policy priority, and recently, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provided more than $40 billion to meet this need. This once-in-a-lifetime investment can only be understood through the lens of previous investments and the success and failure of these previous programs.

To shed some light on this, I’ve asked Ken Kuchno to join us today. Kuchno is a senior telecom adviser at Summit Consulting with more than four decades of experience working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) in a number of different roles, ranging from reviewing system designs for the construction of telecommunication facilities to development of processes and procedures to evaluating applications to manage a multibillion-dollar program portfolio. In July 2014, RUS underwent a major reorganization and Kuchno was chosen to become the deputy assistant administrator for policy and outreach. In this role, he was responsible for a variety of duties, including outreach events to promote RUS’s many programs, implementing and updating regulations, and responding to the Federal Communications Commission.

In addition to his role as a deputy assistant administrator for policy and outreach, Kuchno was responsible for establishing the ReConnect Program. He helped set up the application, reviewed procedures, and administered its first two rounds of funding.  Kuchno was also the liaison for the Department of Agriculture and RUS for an interagency committee that consisted of the Federal Communications Commission, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the Department of the Treasury to ensure that all agencies were working together to avoid duplicating funding in the same areas. Kuchno started his career with the Rural Electrification Administration directly after graduating from Penn State in 1980.

I hope you enjoy today’s conversation. Listen below and let us know what you think!

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