From the NOFA:
RUS and NTIA conclude that "broadband service" should be defined as the provision of two-way data transmission with advertised speeds of at least 768 kilobits per second (kbps) downstream and 200 kbps upstream to end users...
RUS and NTIA favor this broadband speed threshold because it leverages the FCC's 2280 expertise, utilizes an established standard, facilitates the use of many currently common 2281 broadband applications (e.g., web browsing, VOIP, and one-way video), allows for consideration of cost-effective solutions for difficult-to-serve areas, and is the most technology-neutral option (because it encompasses all major wired and wireless technologies).
It's amazing that they set the hurdle so low here. Most cable companies don't even sell Internet connections that slow.
The RUS and NTIA have opted to do what's easy to document and process, rather than what's good for consumers and what makes sense for the next decade. They seem to be making this Recovery Act nothing more than a process that prolongs the pain.
— Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading