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House Slates Hearing on Broadband Stimulus Spending

The House Energy & Commerce Committee's Communications Subcommittee has scheduled a Feb. 10 hearing on the billions of dollars in broadband stimulus money given out by the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The new Republican leadership has expressed concerns over how that money was being spent and how the agencies were protecting those investments from waste, fraud and abuse. Oversight of the program was on an internal priority list circulated to committee members last month.

According to a hearing notification e-mail, the Republicans plan to circulate draft legislation in advance of the hearing. The bill would "increase accountability" for the stimulus spending and "return unused or reclaimed broadband stimulus funds to the U.S. Treasury."

Together, Commerce's National Telecommunications & Information Administration's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) approved about $7 billion in grants and loans for broadband deployment and adoption. The last of the grants was made in late September.

NTIA's funding for oversight is scheduled to run out soon, a concern for Republicans who argue the program is vulnerable to waste and fraud.

The hearing comes a week before the Feb. 17 deadline for NTIA to publish an online, interactive national broadband map.

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.