Broadband Stimulus Should Require Maps First, Say Congressmen/Broadening the Maps Broadband Stimulus Should Require Maps First, Say Congressmen

If two congressmen get their way, the awarding of stimulus money for broadband projects would be contingent upon completion of broadband mapping. U.S. Reps. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., and Joe Barton, R-Texas, recently suggested that only local governments in states with completed maps of broadband coverage should receive stimulus money for such projects.

The congressmen argue that coverage maps would ensure the stimulus money included in the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 goes to areas that are actually lacking broadband. Stearns and Barton are asking the two federal agencies responsible for disbursing broadband stimulus funds to require coverage maps before distributing the money.

"The likelihood of waste, fraud and abuse increases if you act before having the benefit of this information," Stearns and Barton wrote in a letter to the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS), the two agencies distributing federal stimulus money for broadband. The FCC also received the letter.

"Prioritizing funding for projects in states where mapping is complete will also help ensure requests are well thought out and provide a valuable incentive to complete maps in the remaining states as thoroughly and quickly as possible," the congressmen wrote.

They reasoned that since the money is being allocated in three funding windows -- the last window is in June 2010 -- states without broadband maps would have time to produce them before the stimulus money is completely spent. In the meantime, local governments in states with broadband maps should get money first, Stearns and Barton wrote.

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Andy Opsahl  | 

Andy Opsahl is a former writer and features editor for Government Technology magazine.