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EAGLE-Net Resumes Buildout, But Will Be Audited

This week brought good news and bad for
EAGLE-Net Alliance, the $100.6 million Broadband Technology and Opportunities
Program (BTOP) grant cable operators have complained has been overbuildingtheir existing government grant.

According
to a community outreach bulletin issued by alliance, the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, on the advice of the Commerce Department's National

Telecommunications
& Information Administration, which oversees the BTOP grants, has lifted
its suspension of the award (though with some caveats)
and it will resume the statewide infrastructure build-out.

The
bad news is that Commerce plans to audit the grant, according to Greg Walden
(R-Ore.), the chair of the House Communications Subcommittee. Walden and other
Republican legislators sent a letter to the Department of Commerce inspector
general applauding the audit and asking that the IG collect additional information
specific to EAGLE-Net, including "the extent of overbuilding, how the
planned network design has changed since the original award to the Colorado
Centennial Board of Cooperative Educational Services, how much of the funds
remain uncommitted, and the schedule for future build out with the unallocated
funds."

They
have also asked that the GAO ramp up oversight of government broadband grants
and loans.

The
EAGLE-Net grant came up in a subcommittee oversight hearing of the $7 billionBTOP program in February,
where Republicans, including Walden, complained about what they said was the
waste, fraud and overbuilding in the program, including about the EABLE-Net
project, which was defended by NTIA chief Larry
Strickling, who suggested complaints about EAGLE-Net had come from others who
had lost the bid for the grant money.

Asked
whether BTOP programs were overbuilding existing service, he said it depended
on the definition of "overbuild." He said that the presence of 4 Mbps
service was not the same as having the 100 Mbps service that many schools
needed.