CAGW Files Comments to NTIA on Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Broadband Program | Citizens Against Government Waste

CAGW Files Comments to NTIA on Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Broadband Program

Agency Comments


February 3, 2022

Mr. Alan Davidson

National Telecommunications and Information Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C.  20230  

Re:  Notice and Request for Comment - Docket No. 220105-0002; BIN: 0660-ZA33

Dear Administrator Davidson,

On behalf of the more than one million members and supporters of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), I offer the following comments in response to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s notice and request for comment on Docket No. 220105-0002, relating to Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) Implementation.

In May 2021, CAGW released “The Folly of Government-Owned Networks,” which details how funding for government-owned networks frequently leads to overbuilding existing private-sector high-speed networks that already provide service.  Local governments are ill-equipped to maintain and provide upgrades to networks, which often leads to dark fiber and higher costs to taxpayers.[1]  I strongly urge you to use a technology and vendor neutral approach to all funding under the IIJA, and for that matter, all other funding for broadband programs, including NTIA’s existing Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).  All grant applicants should be treated equally based on how well they can provision broadband to those who are currently unserved or underserved.  That also requires using the most up-to-date broadband maps from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). 

Broadband funding should not be saddled with restrictions unrelated to the objective of connecting unserved and underserved communities, like the Department of Treasury’s final rule on using the $350 billion available for state and local government infrastructure projects in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which prioritizes investments in fiber-optic infrastructure and “support for broadband networks owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, nonprofits, and co-operatives.”[2]

With these principles in mind, CAGW’s responses to questions 1, 3, 8, 14, 16, and 20 in the Notice and Request for Comments are as follows:

1. What are the most important steps NTIA can take to ensure that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s broadband programs meet their goals with respect to access, adoption, affordability, digital equity, and digital inclusion? 

Interagency coordination for directing broadband deployment and funding to where it is most needed under the IIJA goals is dependent on accurate mapping.  NTIA should work with the FCC to complete the broadband mapping program, as directed by the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act of 2020 (Broadband DATA Act),[3]to ensure accurate and concise maps showing locations that have access to minimum broadband service of 25/3 Mbps and allocate funding to those areas that do not have access to this type of service.  The act included $25 million to update the maps.  The Coronavirus Response and Supplemental Relief Act added $65 million, bringing the total amount of funding for the FCC to $90 million.  The FCC should be solely responsible for the maps, and able to share this information with other agencies as part of the coordination effort.  There should not be one set of maps for one agency and another set of maps for another agency.

NTIA must take a technology and vendor neutral approach to issuing grant funding.  All proposals that meet the 100/20 speed threshold contained in IIJA must be considered, regardless of whether broadband is provisioned through wireline, wireless, or other technologies.  To meet the digital inclusion goals of the law, NTIA should consider participation by a provider in the FCC’s new Affordable Connectivity Program as sufficient to satisfy the low-cost service obligation.

3. Transparency and public accountability are critical to the success of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s broadband programs. What types of data should NTIA require funding recipients to collect and maintain to facilitate assessment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law programs’ impact, evaluate targets, promote accountability, and/or coordinate with other federal and state programs?  Are there existing data collection processes or templates that could be used as a model?  How should this information be reported and analyzed, and what standards, if any, should NTIA, grant recipients, and/or sub-grantees apply in determining whether funds are being used lawfully and effectively? 

To effectively distribute and report on grant funding, NTIA should develop uniform quality and performance metrics for all recipients and help guide states in the development of their broadband deployment plans.  NTIA grants must require states to adhere to the IIJA’s statutory requirements to connect unserved Americans first.  The states should collect and maintain the amount of federal, state, and local taxpayer funding received, how that funding is being spent, and an anticipated project completion timeline in a given funding area.  Funding recipients should also provide the agency with regular progress reports.  This information should be easily accessible on NTIA’s website. 

8. States and regions across the country face a variety of barriers to achieving the goal of universal, affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband and broadband needs, which vary from place to place. These challenges range from economic and financial circumstances to unique geographic conditions, topologies, or other challenges that will impact the likelihood of success of this program. In implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s broadband programs, how can NTIA best address such circumstances?

Funding from the IIJA broadband programs must not set a national preference, requirement, suggestion, or standard for a particular technology or vendor.  The NTIA should not adopt the same priorities in investment in fiber-optic and support for government-owned networks as the Department of the Treasury did for the use of ARPA funding for state and local government infrastructure improvements.  Local communities should determine the best solution for their area, since broadband deployment is dependent on several factors that can impact affordability and deployment capabilities.  This is critical for topographical and geographic conditions where technologies like satellite and TV white space may be better suited than fiber or other technologies.

14. NTIA is committed to ensuring that networks constructed using taxpayer funds are designed to provide robust and sustainable service at affordable prices over the long term. What criteria should NTIA require states to consider to ensure that projects will provide sustainable service, will best serve unserved and underserved communities, will provide accessible and affordable broadband in historically disconnected communities, and will benefit from ongoing investment from the network provider over time?

Again, CAGW strongly urges the NTIA to avoid mandating one specific technology or vendor over another when developing criteria for states to consider in ensuring that broadband deployment projects will provide sustainable service for unserved and underserved communities.  NTIA should require states to use the most current mapping data available, once the FCC completes its broadband mapping program, to deploy broadband in the following order: 1) unserved communities that do not meet the current standard of 25/3 Mbps speed threshold, which would include historically disconnected communities where middle and last mile connectivity is lacking at or above that standard, and 2) underserved communities that have only one provider offering 25/3 Mbps.  The technology offered by providers should be as broad as possible to include cable, fiber, fixed wireless, mobile broadband, satellite, and the use of TV white space, based on the best connection outcomes for the specific area.

NTIA should also consider how barriers to deploying broadband infrastructure have increased costs and delayed buildout of systems at the state and local level.  These barriers include high pole attachment fees, lengthy application processes for permitting of pole attachments, and right-of-way access.[4]  If state and local governments impose unreasonable and inequitable burdens on broadband providers, it will impede the timely and cost-effective deployment to unserved communities and increase the chances that the taxpayers’ money will be wasted.  Some states, like Florida, are working on legislation to use funding from the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund in the American Rescue Plan Act to reimburse broadband providers for pole replacement costs when they are required by a local utility to replace end of life utility poles.[5]  NTIA should address these issues in its grantmaking process, including whether state or local pole attachment laws and regulations are impeding the timely deployment of broadband; allowing deadlines to be extended where the laws result in delays; and, coordinating with other federal and state agencies that fund broadband programs to both determine how they can help to reduce these barriers to deployment and prevent duplication of funding.

CAGW is also concerned that supply chain issues will impact the Buy America requirements in the IIJA.[6]  We encourage NTIA to provide a waiver of these requirements if American-made equipment necessary for these networks is not available, and a safe and secure replacement product can be used instead.

16. Broadband deployment projects can take months or years to complete. As a result, there are numerous areas where an entity has made commitments to deploy service using its own funding, government funding, or a combination of the two, but in which service has not yet been deployed.  How should NTIA treat prior buildout commitments that are not reflected in the updated FCC maps because the projects themselves are not yet complete?  What risks should be mitigated in considering these areas as “served” in the goal to connect all Americans to reliable, affordable, high-speed broadband? 

Interagency coordination of all broadband funding is critical to ensure that taxpayer resources are not wasted on duplicative efforts to build broadband networks.  NTIA should work in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Service program, the Department of Treasury, and the FCC to develop a reporting system provide transparency on the deployment of federal funds allocated for broadband across the agencies.  As part of a transparency process, the NTIA should spotlight the progress being made by funding recipients, not just for the IIJA funding, but for all federal funding allocated toward broadband deployment using the most current broadband deployment maps, available data, and reporting requirements like those required by the FCC on its annual form 477 data requests that provide information for broadband mapping progress.[7]

20. When formulating state broadband plans, what state agencies or stakeholder groups should be considered in the development of those plans? 

Stakeholder groups must include taxpayers and ratepayers, who will ultimately be responsible for the costs of these plans. Several states have created or are in the process of creating broadband development agencies that can assist in formulating broadband deployment plans, as well as developing state plans required by IIJA for funding requests to NTIA.  These agencies can assist in ensuring this funding is directed where it is most needed.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the NTIA rulemaking process for the use of the funding authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 

Tom Schatz
President, CAGW


[1] Deborah Collier, Thomas Schatz, “The Folly of Government-Owned Networks,” Citizens Against Government Waste, May 2021,

[2] U.S. Department of Treasury, “Coronavirus State & Local Fiscal Recovery Fund:  Overview of the Final Rule,” January 2022, p. 39,

[3] Broadband DATA Act, S. 1822, 116th Congress, Pub. L. 116-130,

[4] Deborah Collier, “State and Local Governments Must Stop Restraining Broadband Expansion,” The WasteWatcher, Citizens Against Government Waste, August 18, 2021,

[5] Broadband Infrastructure, HB 1543, 2022 Session, House Bill,

[6] Sarah Schiffling and Nikolaos Valantasis, “Supply chain issues will continue well into 2022 – with a twist,” Fast Company, January 11, 2022,

[7] Federal Communications Commission, Fixed Broadband Deployment Data from FCC Form 477, Federal Communications Commission,