The National Cable & Telecommunications Association got
some backup in its letter to the heads of the National Telecommunications &
Information Administration on broadband stimulus grant money apparently being
used to overbuild existing service, which is something cable operators have
been worried about.
That support came from House Energy & Commerce Committee
ranking member Joe Barton (R-Tex.) in remarks at a communications subcommittee
oversight hearing March 4 on NTIA and the Rural Utilities Service's
distribution of $76.2 billion in funds for broadband deployment and adoption.
"What disturbs me most are the rumors that some of the funds
that have been distributed by NTIA and RUS are for projects that overlay
existing broadband infrastructure," said Barton. "I'm aware of at
least two projects that appear to be overbuilds, and given the relaxing of the
rules for the next round of funding from the NTIA, this problem will only get
worse. What due diligence are the NTIA and the RUS doing themselves to ensure
money is not being spent where facilities already exist?" he asked.
Barton was also concerned that the stimulus program in
general might be more about waste than jobs.
Barton's audience included the two targets of the NCTA
letter: NTIA chief Larry Strickling and RUS head and former FCC Commissioner
Strickling told the committee that NTIA had plenty of due
diligence in place to make sure it had sufficiently vetted the bidders.
"As stewards of taxpayer funds, we are determined to invest every dollar
wisely. My goal is to not make a bad grant, and you have my assurances we have
the processes and protections in place to prevent that from happening," he
told the committee, according to prepared testimony."