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Inspector General to Review NTIA Handling of BTOP

The Commerce Department's Inspector General (IG) is conducting a review of its handling of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) portion of the economic stimulus
package, according to the IG's office.

NTIA, which is the White House's chief telecommunications advisor and oversees government spectrum policy much as the FCC does commercial spectrum, is an arm of the Commerce Department.

In a memo last week to NTIA chief Larry Strickling, Judith Gordon, assistant inspector general for audit and evaluation, said an initial conference on the inquiry had been scheduled for Sept. 2.

She said the goal of the review was to gauge how effectively NTIA is overseeing and managing the program, including contractors and office staffing. It will also evaluate how NTIA has set up the award process for winning bidders for the $7.2 billion in grant and loan money it is giving out in concert with the Ag Department and with a consulting assist from the FCC.

Finally, the IG will evaluate the reliability of the online application process. NTIA had to extend the deadline for bids after some users had trouble uploading documents electronically. It advised trying Firefox as a workaround.

The review will be based in Washington, but could extend to "other locations as needed," she said.

A spokesperson for the IG said the inquiry was part of ongoing monitoring and oversight, for which $10 million was set aside in the BTOP program.