Review Set For NTIA's Efforts On Stimulus

The Commerce Department's Office of the Inspector General is conducting a review of its handling of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program portion of the economic stimulus package, it said.

The review is provided for in the legislation that established the program. Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration is the White House's chief telecommunications adviser and oversees government spectrum, much as the Federal Communications Commission does with commercial spectrum.

In a memo to NTIA administrator Larry Strickling, Judith Gordon, assistant inspector general for audit and evaluation, said the goal of the review was to gauge how effectively that agency is overseeing and managing the program, including supervising 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 U.S. Agriculture Department and with a consulting assist from the FCC.

Finally, the inspector general 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,” Gordon said.

Lisa Allen, chief of staff of the Commerce Department's Office of Inspector General, said the review was triggered by issues including the difficulties with online applications, but also said it was all part of the process and one of numerous planned reviews, including audits.

John Bunting, OIG spokesman for the BTOP program, said that there is also a separate Government Accountability Office review of the program underway from the interagency perspective of looking at both NTIA and the Agriculture Department's Rural Utilities Service.

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.