House Dems: GAO Study Demonstrates Success of Broadband Stimulus

House Energy & Commerce Committee Democrats Monday were celebrating a new GAO study that they say demonstrates the success of the government's various broadband stimulus programs boosting federally funded networks, including municipal.

A trio of California Dems, Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Henry Waxman, Nancy Pelosi and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Anna Eshoo released the study, which they said showed that small business in areas with federally funded broadband networks were able to get higher quality, faster networks at lower cost.

That federal funding came via the President's broadband stimulus Recovery Act grants and loans (BTOP and BIP), the FCC's Connect America fund and various rural access and telecom loan guarantee programs.

The study looked at 14 federally funded and municipal networks, and concluded that they "tended" to be faster than other networks and their prices "slightly" lower.

"This GAO report confirms that when it comes to closing our digital divide, federal investment in broadband deployment has been pivotal to the success of America's small businesses," said Eshoo.

House Republicans have not been nearly so sanguine about the Obama Administration broadband subsidy efforts, particularly the Recovery Act grants and loans. Among their concerns are overbuilding of existing service, as well as waste, fraud and abuse.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association was still studying the report at press time.

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration, which oversees Commerce's BTOP broadband subsidy program, liked what it saw.

“The GAO’s report confirms the positive impact that federal broadband projects, including NTIA’s broadband program, are having on communities across the country," said an NTIA spokesperson. "The GAO found that these federal broadband projects are benefitting small businesses by providing access to affordable high-speed Internet services, allowing them to improve efficiency and use bandwidth-heavy applications such as video conferencing. We appreciate Minority Leader Pelosi and Ranking members Waxman and Eshoo for requesting this report to measure how federal broadband investments are benefitting the country.”

Municipal networks advocate Christopher Mitchell, of, said the report showed that community-owned broadband networks "offer local businesses the opportunity to thrive," he said. "“Municipal networks have many benefits for communities, introducing real competition, lowering prices, and dramatically increasing reliable connections for small business.”

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.