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Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Providing for Improved Rural Telephone Facilities

October 28, 1949

I HAVE today approved H.R. 2960, which amends the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 to authorize a loan program for the improvement and expansion of rural telephone facilities.

The need of our farm people for adequate telephone service at reasonable rates is second only to their need for dependable, lowcost electricity. Indeed, I think it has been brought out quite clearly in the House and Senate hearings on this bill that no group of people needs telephone service as much as do our farmers. The farm is a place of business as well as the home of the farm family. Its relative isolation makes the telephone even more necessary to farm people than to city dwellers for emergencies, for greater economic well-being, and for the health and happiness of all members of the farmer's family.

The importance of this new act is apparent from the fact that today only about 40 percent of our farms have any kind of telephone service at all. This is scarcely any improvement over 1920, when about 39 percent of them had telephone service. The rural telephone service trend is in striking contrast with the progress of electric light and power service in rural areas. In 1935, the year prior to the enactment of the Rural Electrification Act, only about 11 percent of our farms had electricity. Today almost 80 percent are electrified. Most of this gain has been due to the stimulus of the REA program. In the past year, REA-financed systems have been responsible for about three-fourths of all new farm electric service extensions. The success of the rural electrification program is a happy augury of what we may expect from this rural telephone program based on the same principles.

In enacting this new legislation, we have made it our national policy "that adequate telephone service be made generally available in rural areas through the improvement and expansion of existing telephone facilities and the construction and operation of such additional facilities as are required .... " And the objective of this legislation is to implement that policy so as "to assure the availability of adequate telephone service to the widest practicable number of rural users of such service."

I am glad that the Congress has written into the act in such unmistakable terms this principle of maximum telephone coverage of rural areas. It is my hope that the provisions of the act will prove adequate to enable the Rural Electrification Administration to take all the steps necessary to realize that objective. I am sure that the States, persons now providing telephone service, new organizations of users, and the individual residents of rural areas all will cooperate fully to bring about the greatest measure of success under this new law.

In particular, I wish to express my belief that by applying the REA pattern to meeting the need of our farm population for more and better telephone service, the Congress has acted to promote the general welfare of our rural citizens and of the Nation as a whole and, at the same time, to strengthen our private enterprise system. The combination of Federal loans and technical advisory services with local initiative, and the assumption by people locally of the responsibilities of ownership, operation and control of needed service enterprises, has proved eminently successful in the field of rural electrification. I am confident that it will prove similarly successful in the rural telephone field.

NOTE: AS enacted, H.R. 2960 is Public Law 423 (63 Stat. 948).