Hutchison: Oversight of Broadband Funding In Democratic Stimulus Bill Inadequate

“Broadband Projects Must be Completed Without Waste, Fraud and Abuse”

October 27, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), the Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said today that broadband funding oversight was inadequate during a hearing on the future of broadband service in the United States.

“Current broadband oversight plans appear to be inadequate,” said Senator Hutchison.  “I had significant concerns during the Stimulus debate about moving too quickly to deploy public funds before the FCC completes its report on a national broadband plan, and before completing national broadband mapping efforts.  Grants must be awarded to areas that are substantially underserved or completely lack infrastructure, and we must ensure that projects are completed on time, within their budgets, and without waste, fraud and abuse.  The agencies charged with administering these programs have not convinced me that they have an adequate plan or sufficient staff to provide post-grant oversight of these projects through their completion.”

Earlier this year, Senator Hutchison introduced the Connecting America Act (S. 1447) to provide tax incentives for private companies to invest in unserved areas and to make additional investments in existing facilities to improve both capacity and capability of broadband networks.  The bill also includes provisions to encourage the adoption of broadband technology and to improve the effectiveness of existing federal programs supporting broadband deployment efforts. Estimates suggest it could cost as much as $300 billion to ensure universal access to broadband, indicating that a substantial commitment of private investment will be necessary to improve broadband availability.

“We all share the common goal of developing broadband communications in areas of the country that continue to lack access,” Senator Hutchison said.  “But, we must do more to close the gap on broadband access.  Texas is almost 80 percent rural and many communities across my state lack broadband communications.  This technology can dramatically expand the availability of distance learning to improve educational opportunities, and increase the quality of rural health care delivery through telemedicine.  Tackling this issue will require engaging the private sector through incentives that will spur investment in unserved and underserved areas.”

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