BEAD Funding Requires Closer Scrutiny | Citizens Against Government Waste

BEAD Funding Requires Closer Scrutiny

The WasteWatcher

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has been raising concerns about broadband spending by the federal government for several years and was pleased to see the release of Senate Commerce, Transportation, and Science Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) report spotlighting his oversight of this spending. 

Sen. Cruz’s report, Red Light Report: Stop Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Federal Broadband Funding spotlights the problems with the National Telecommunication and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) funding guidance that will lead to further wasteful projects being built across the country and fail to get those who need it most finally connected to the internet.  In his report, Sen. Cruz spotlights three key findings where the administration is failing, by providing “ten states and territories more than $10,000 per unserved location – including a galling $547,254 per unserved location in Washington, D.C.,” allocating “funding to over five million locations that are already being funded by other federal programs,” and imposing a “technology bias against non-fiber broadband.”

In addition, the report spotlights several examples of funding allocations that divert funding from areas that are truly unserved.  These include funding to unserved locations at the National Zoo, comprising 33 percent of the funding to Washington, D.C.; BEAD funding being issued to areas that are already receiving broadband funding from other programs, including in the state of Delaware which had already received $13 million in Rural Digital Opportunities Funds and $33 million in CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act funding to build broadband to 6,500 homes and businesses in the smallest state per square mile in the country, yet received another $108 million in BEAD funds to all of the state’s 2,166 unserved locations including the Biden Environmental Training Center.

A May 31, 2022, Government Accountability Office report highlighted the myriad of federal programs with oversight of broadband funding dollars, which lacked coordination and frequently wastefully duplicated one another.  As noted in the Sen. Cruz’s report, in the past four years more than $125 billion in funding has been dedicated toward broadband connectivity.  According to an April 6, 2021, Facebook Live interview between CAGW President Tom Schatz and Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr, there could be as much as $800 billion in available broadband funding.  With this massive amount of spending, Congress must continue its heightened oversight of broadband funding, and hold agency feet to the fire to prevent further wasteful spending.

Sen. Cruz’s report also acknowledges the problems with the administration’s bias toward the use of one specific technology, namely fiber only connectivity at 100/100 Mbps speeds, even if that technology is not the best one suited to a specific location.  This lack of technology neutrality in the administration’s guidance will slow deployment to more rural areas and increase the cost of deployment.  This technology specificity by administration officials demonstrates a severe lack of will to ensure that the most efficient and effective means of getting everyone connected is used, and instead provides preferential treatment of providers who offer this one solution, even if it costs taxpayers more money. 

As noted by Sen. Cruz, there is enough BEAD funding to bring broadband connectivity to every household and business in America.  However, if the administration continues its path of wasteful, duplicative, anti-competitive, and anti-consumer and taxpayer spending, this goal will remain unachievable.  The report is a must read for anyone concerned about potential wasteful spending in broadband programs.