• On February 10, 2011, the House Communications Subcommittee held a hearing that focused on continuing oversight of funds disbursed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) under the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP). The Inspectors General for both the Department of Commerce, the agency that oversees NTIA, and the Department of Agriculture, the agency that oversees RUS, were among the witnesses. In addition, Gary Shoreman, Chief Executive Officer of Eagle Communications, testified at the hearing.

U.S. Department of Commerce Inspector General Todd Zinser testified that “BTOP represents the largest and most complex grant program NTIA has ever overseen. The grant awards went to a diverse group of recipients, and conditions surround the awards themselves vary widely.” Zinser further stated that “The potential for fraud, waste, and abuse will increase substantially over the next 5 years as spending by BTOP grant recipients rises.”

Another subject of this hearing was a proposed bill, drafted by Subcommittee Chairman Gary Walden, D-Ore., that would require reclaimed or unused funds to be returned to the Treasury Department. Chairman Walden stated that the proposed legislation “would ensure that the NTIA and the RUS report to Congress on any red flags the inspectors general find, as well as on what they propose to do about it. It would also help ensure that any money that is returned reclaimed, or goes unused is put back in the U.S. Treasury.” Gary Shoreman testified as to how the stimulus programs have impacted his company, and he urged the consideration of legislation that would require any wasteful funding to be returned to the Treasury. Chairman Walden stated that he expects to have another hearing regarding BTOP and BIP oversight that will include the administrators of NTIA and RUS.

Mr. Zinser’s testimony can be found here.

Chairman Walden’s opening statement can be found here.

The Subcommittee’s press release on the hearing can be found here.