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House Passes Broadband Stimulus Oversight Bill

The House of Representatives Wednesday passed H.R. 1343, a bill to improve the "accountability and transparency" of the broadband portion of the stimulus package.

The Department of Agriculture and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration has allocated $7 billion in grants and loans for broadband build-out, adoption and education.

The bill requires both the USDA's Rural Utilities Service and NTIA to terminate an award and return the funds if the Treasury concludes that there is associated waste, fraud or insufficient performance.

Republicans in particular, but not exclusively, have expressed concerns about oversight of those billions.

"This legislation improves oversight of the awards and clarifies ambiguities regarding what happens to returned or reclaimed funds," said House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R- Mich.). "For example, if an inspector general flags a potential problem with a project, the NTIA or RUS must determine what action to take within 30 days and tell Congress what it has done.  With such large sums of money, it is wise to provide proper oversight and protect the American taxpayers from more wasteful and fraudulent spending."

Beyond waste, fraud and abuse, the cable industry is concerned some of the money is going to overbuild their existing service.