NTIA Not Right Agency to Deliver Infrastructure Broadband Funds Says Senator


Why is a federal agency that has repeatedly fumbled broadband grants being put in charge of massive new broadband funding in the Senate (-passed) infrastructure bill?  That’s what one rural-state U.S. senator wants to know.

South Dakota Republican John Thune on the handling of a nearly five-billion-dollar 2009 broadband grant program by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

“It didn’t go very well. The agency struggled with implementation—there were serious problems with a number of the projects the agency approved. In fact, 14 projects were either temporarily or permanently halted. Other projects resulted in a significant amount of overbuilding, meaning that they resulted in the construction of additional broadband infrastructure in areas that already had access to reliable broadband.”

Thune proposed putting the FCC, with more experience and personnel, in charge of spending 42 billion dollars for deployment in the infrastructure bill, which also spends 14 billion dollars for low-income subsidies.

He complained NTIA sought volunteers to administer just 1.5 billion dollars in broadband grants this year.

“We should think long and hard before giving an agency the authority to administer more than 42 billion dollars in grants when it has to call on volunteers to help allocate a tiny fraction of that money.”

Thune also complains the Senate bill gives USDA power to give broadband grants to communities where 50 percent of homes lack service, urging the figure be dropped to 20 percent to get service where it’s truly needed and reverse longstanding problems with the country’s deployment of rural broadband.