These costly and duplicative programs are plagued with the same waste and abuse – only this time no one is sure exactly how much. USDA’s Inspector General testified in February that the Department hadn’t yet reviewed what became of the money. NTIA has proposed to provide accountability by asking taxpayers for a multi-million dollar boost to their budget so they could go see what happened to the money they’ve already spent. The fleecing of taxpayers begets the fleecing of taxpayers.
Today, all the broadband stimulus money has been committed, but already over $70 million has been returned after projects that applied for the money folded. Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) held a hearing last week on legislation that would strengthen oversight of the broadband “stimulus” and ensure any returned funds go directly to the U.S. Treasury – not back out the door. This is a huge step in the right direction.
If Congress is serious about reining in spending, then costly, duplicative, and wasteful broadband programs should be near the top of the list. This is especially so since well over 95 percent of Americans already have access to broadband Internet. Congress should double-down on Rep. Walden’s work by pulling the $700 million for broadband loans out of USDA’s coffers.