NTIA Pulls Plug on $80M Louisiana Broadband Grant

Washington -- The National Telecommunications & Information Administration confirmed it has terminated a $80 million-plus broadband grantto Louisiana.

The state had planned to deploy more than 900 miles of fiber-optic
cable to deliver service to some of its poorest areas, via more than 80 direct
connections to anchor institutions.

But after delays and inadequate plans, the NTIA said, the
plug has been pulled on the funding, just a fraction of the billions of dollars
in grants the agency allocated as part of the Obama administration's BTOP
(Broadband Technology Opportunities Program) program, itself an element of the president's
stimulus package.

The agency had pledged to keep a close watch on the funds
and how they were being spent.

"NTIA is vigorously overseeing broadband grant projects
to ensure they are completed on time, on budget and deliver the promised
benefits to the communities they serve," agency administrator Lawrence
Strickling said in an e-mail statement to Multichannel
. "It is our goal to intervene early with projects that are
getting off track and correct problems to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not
wasted on projects that otherwise would fail."

Strickling signaled that the Louisiana Broadband Alliance
was one such project.

"The Louisiana project, as originally submitted,
promised great benefits to unserved and underserved areas of the state,"
Strickling said. "However, after the state determined it was unable to
implement the original project plan and fell significantly behind schedule, it
proposed major modifications to its original proposal."

Unfortunately, it did so "without adequate technical
and financial details and a viable schedule for completing the project,"
he added. "We have worked closely with the state throughout the last
several months to rescue this project but have now concluded that we have to
move on. Accordingly, as a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars, NTIA
terminated the grant and will return the funds to the U.S. Treasury."

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.