The debate over the massive economic stimulus bill seems like a long time ago, but many of the partisan arguments over the broadband provisions returned in full form at a Thursday House hearing. As lawmakers heard updates from the officials overseeing the funding disbursements, Republicans gave them an earful about the prioritization of certain areas deemed “underserved” over those with no service at all.
Enterprise Networking Planet reports on the congressional discord over the broadband stimulus funds and open Internet requirements, as well as an update on the timetable for awarding the funding.
House Republicans leveled pointed criticism at the agency heads overseeing broadband stimulus funding in an oversight hearing Thursday morning, blasting the decision to award grants and loans to fund projects in areas that already have some basic broadband service, when other regions are still without any form of high-speed connectivity.
The hearing comes as the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA), a division of the Commerce Department, and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) are evaluating applications for the second and final wave of the $7.2 billion allocated for broadband projects in last year’s economic recovery legislation.
At the time, GOP members of the House Internet subcommittee argued against prioritizing communities deemed “underserved” by broadband providers ahead of unserved areas, a criticism that continues to dog the stimulus initiatives.
We feel that the NTIA and RUS broadband stimulus programs are not working as well as they could,” said Florida’s Cliff Stearns, the ranking Republican on the subcommittee. “It appears that some of this money might be going to duplicate access.”