Broadband agencies hear complaints from all sides


Both agencies will have "far fewer staff" to monitor the new broadband projects than they have for existing programs, said Mark Goldstein, the GAO's director of physical infrastructure issues. "The upcoming deadline for awarding funds may pose risks to the thoroughness of the application evaluation process," he said.

Some senators at the hearing raised questions about how the money would be spent and why many large broadband providers had opted out of the NTIA and RUS programs.

Much of the money will be committed to projects before nationwide broadband mapping efforts are completed, which raises concerns that the money won't be spent wisely, said Kay Bailey Hutchison.

"My concern is that we have the mapping ... to see where the real priorities in America are," Hutchison said. "I understand this was a stimulus package ... but I also am concerned that we're not going to be using the right priorities for the taxpayer dollars."

As for the time frame, Congress required some of the funds to go out before the mapping was completed. NTIA is relying on information from several sources, including the grant applicants, state governments and broadband providers, to determine where the money is needed, said Larry Strickling, assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information, and head of the NTIA.