Thursday, August 04, 2022

Commissioner Carr Praises National Broadband Strategy Bill

In a statement released earlier today, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr welcomed the introduction of bicameral and bipartisan legislation compelling the Biden Administration to create a national broadband strategy – a much-needed development for which he long has advocated.

As I pointed out in a June 2022 post to the FSF Blog, a report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) the previous month found that 15 different federal agencies and departments had been tasked with administering upwards of 133 unique broadband funding sources – and cautioned that "[t]his patchwork of programs could lead to wasteful duplication of funding and effort."

I raised a similar concern in March 2022's "Overlapping Broadband Appropriations Demand Agency Coordination: New FCC Maps Can Track Grants, Avert Waste," a Perspectives from FSF Scholars in which the above chart, depicting over $450 billion in potential subsidies overseen by just four agencies and departments (the FCC, NTIA, and Departments of Agriculture and Treasury), originally appeared.

Accordingly, the GAO report recommended that the "Executive Office of the President … develop and implement a national broadband strategy with clear roles, goals, objectives, and performance measures to support better management of fragmented, overlapping federal broadband programs and synchronize coordination efforts."

In a statement released in response, not for the first time Commissioner Carr voiced his concerns regarding this "troubling" state of affairs, concluding that "it appears that the Administration has turned the spigot on full blast and then walked away from the hose" and warning that "[a]s a result, taxpayers are about to get soaked."

For similar reasons, the Free State Foundation argued in comments submitted Monday regarding the effectiveness of the Interagency Broadband Coordination Agreement between the Commission, NTIA, and Department of Agriculture that "it is incumbent upon the Biden Administration to craft a national broadband strategy out of the current chaos."

Introduced by Senators Roger Wicker (R – MS) and Ben Ray Luj├ín (D – NM) and Representatives Tim Walberg (R – MI) and Peter Welch (D – VT), the PLAN for Broadband Act would ensure that that occurs.

As Commissioner Carr's statement explains, "[t]his bipartisan, bicameral legislation would require the President to develop a national strategy to improve the coordination and management of broadband programs, including adopting accountability and performance measures, as well as an implementation plan to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse in federal broadband programs."