FCC Creates Fraud Unit

The FCC is ramping up its pursuit of waste, fraud and abuse in its Universal Service Fund broadband subsidy program.

The commission voted unanimously—4-0 since it was before new Democrat Geoffrey Starks came aboard—to create a new fraud division within the Enforcement Bureau.

Pursuing fraud has always been part of the bureau's mission, but the move essentially consolidates assets already in that pursuit, according to one FCC official.

Related: FCC Opens Proceeding on Barring USF Funds For Suspect Tech

The chairman's office said much the same thing in announcing the vote, saying the action "codifies and reiterates the importance of ongoing work by FCC enforcement staff to combat misuse of taxpayer funds."

Getting a handle on the billions of dollars in Universal Service Fund subsidies, which are paid by telecom carriers and, ultimately, passed on to their customers, has been a priority for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and will be the focus of the new fraud investigation team.

Related: Pallone: FCC Not Addressing High-Cost Waste, Fraud and Abuse

“Protecting taxpayer dollars as we use Universal Service Fund programs to bridge the digital divide lies at the heart of our work at the FCC,” said Rosemary Harold, chief of the Enforcement Bureau, in a statement. “To ensure we are effective in that work, it is vital that we maintain a steady eye on these programs to address the unfortunate reality that, over the years, too much money that should have gone to connect American consumers and businesses has been lost, stolen, or misused. Establishing a Fraud Division within the Bureau will help us combat waste, fraud, and abuse in these important connectivity programs.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.