U.S. Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), ranking member and chairman, respectively, of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, today sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to request that it conduct a review of the effectiveness of federal, state, and local broadband programs. The request follows a 2022 GAO report that found overlapping and fragmented federal efforts to deploy broadband services.
“A recent GAO report uncovered that ‘federal broadband efforts are fragmented and overlapping, with more than 100 programs administered by 15 agencies,’” the senators wrote. “We appreciate GAO for its thoroughness and for the recommendations provided in this report, and we request that GAO build upon this work and conduct an additional review of federal, state, and local broadband efforts to determine the effectiveness of each program.”
As part of his nationwide broadband oversight effort to hold agencies accountable and ensure funding is being used in the most efficient way possible, Thune recently urged the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to revise or issue a new notice of funding opportunity for the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment Program in order to reach, and more efficiently connect, truly unserved Americans.
Full letter below:
April 24, 2023
The Honorable Gene L. Dodaro
Comptroller General of the United States U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, Northwest
Washington, D.C. 20548
Dear Mr. Dodaro:
A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report uncovered that “federal broadband efforts are fragmented and overlapping, with more than 100 programs administered by 15 agencies.” We appreciate GAO for its thoroughness and for the recommendations provided in this report, and we request that GAO build upon this work and conduct an additional review of federal, state, and local broadband efforts to determine the effectiveness of each program.
Specifically, we request that GAO examine the following issues and questions and provide recommendations on any actions Congress and the relevant agencies should take to improve the broadband regulatory structure:
- Of the 133 broadband funding programs GAO identified, and any new programs that have been created since, were the programs established in line with Congress’ directive on the funding’s intended purpose? What was the statutory basis for the establishment of each program?
a. Did each agency charged with establishing its broadband funding program follow Congress’ directive on the funding’s intended purpose?
- Of the 133 broadband funding programs previously identified by GAO, and any new programs identified, what were the specific policy goals for each program and to what extent did each program meet these goals?
- How often have federal programs’ funding overlapped other federal programs and on what basis did they do so?
- How has the fragmented and overlapping approach the federal government taken with respect to broadband deployment affected the success of each program?
- Did the Federal Communications Commission, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and U.S. Department of the Treasury fulfill the agreements set forth in the May 9, 2022, Memorandum of Understanding?
- How have federal agencies coordinated their broadband programs with state and local broadband funding programs?
Thank you for your attention to this matter. GAO is an ally in Congress’ work to ensure federal programs work as intended. Addressing weaknesses in each of these broadband programs will help ensure more Americans are connected to reliable broadband services.
Ben Ray Luján