Voicing concern about the Rural Utilities Service’s (RUS) oversight of federal loans for rural broadband network projects, six members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote to RUS Administrator and former FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein to request information on a $267 million loan granted by the RUS to Open Range Communications, a regional broadband service provider that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month. The RUS funds approved for Open Range during the administration of President George W. Bush constitute the largest-ever federal government loan for broadband services. Open Range, the operator of a WiMax network that spans 140 markets in a dozen states, has repaid all but $73.5 million of the RUS loan it received. The letter, delivered to Adelstein on November 9, was signed by House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), ranking committee member Henry Waxman (D-CA), House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), ranking subcommittee member Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO). Asserting that the Open Range bankruptcy “potentially puts $73.5 million of taxpayer money at risk,” the lawmakers asked Adelstein to participate in “a bipartisan briefing to explain the RUS application review process for the Open Range loan and the oversight RUS conducted to ensure taxpayer funds were used as intended.” They also requested “all documents relating to the Open Range loan application, the decision to approve the loan, and any subsequent developments with respect to the loan.” Citing concerns raised by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s inspector general “about ongoing oversight of the broadband loan programs,” the lawmakers also asked Adelstein to provide “additional information about the total number and amount of broadband loans provided pursuant to the 2002 and 2008 farm bill,” including “whether any of the recipient companies have experienced or are experiencing financial difficulties.”