Awards from the first round of broadband stimulus grants are coming under criticism for duplicating existing infrastructure.
"Now as the government awards the money, some phone and cable companies complain that not all of it is being used to bring broadband to places that lack it," said Joelle Tessler in a story for the Associated Press. "Instead, these companies say, much of the money will fund new networks in places where they already offer service."
The criticisms arose during a March 4 hearing on Oversight of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Broadband, by Congressman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.). "In addition to driving away the companies most likely to help us achieve ubiquitous broadband deployment, NTIA is now actually subsidizing broadband competition rather than extending coverage to unserved areas," he told the committee.
However, one industry expert called the testimony a partisan attack promulgated by industry lobbyists. "The underlying point of such criticism, and all three alleged instances of the program’s waste in the field, are based wholly on talking points recently lobbed against the federal effort by congressional Republicans," said Peter Pratt in a piece on the Stimulating Broadband website. "The Republican points of attack are, in turn, based solely on input from the two largest trade groups representing the cable TV and telecom industries." The two groups have been against the broadband stimulus program from the beginning, he added.
Pratt went on to criticize the AP for not saying the source of its information was the trade groups, and for not quoting rural economic developers, rural state governors, or other officials from areas awarded broadband funds. "Typically such local officials and business people describe how the lack of broadband networks restrains economic growth in their areas," he said. "Based on the article’s information, there is no way to verify the claims of the carrier / provider incumbents, nor review the extensive data inspected by the feds which resulted in the awards based on a finding of a lack of broadband facilities in the areas identified by the AP report."