recommended reading

Commerce wants maps showing where broadband is needed

The absence of a national map that pinpoints localities that lack high-speed Internet access could hinder the federal government from distributing stimulus funds to expand the service in those areas, lawmakers and federal officials said on Thursday.

While federal agencies wait for accurate mapping, they are moving ahead on outreach initiatives to engage potential service providers and grant recipients.

The recovery act provides $4.7 billion for the Commerce Department to accelerate the rollout of high-speed Internet, or broadband, nationwide. It mandates activities such as providing grants to encourage long-term subscribership, retooling public computer facilities and maintaining a broadband inventory map.

"Some applicants will be ready to go from the beginning of the program while others will need more time to undertake planning activities, develop business plans, map broadband availability and build the necessary partnerships to assure project sustainability. These activities may take some applicants months to complete," Mark Seifert, senior adviser to the assistant secretary of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, told lawmakers at a House oversight hearing.

Congress also gave the Agriculture Department $2.5 billion to extend services to rural areas. At the hearing, convened by the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communication, Technology and the Internet, David Villano, assistant administrator of USDA's rural development telecommunication program, testified that the department is cooperating with Commerce and the Federal Communications Commission to compile the map.

The subcommittee's ranking member, Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., expressed concerns that the short time frame Congress has given the departments to accomplish their broadband missions may waste taxpayer money. To avoid failure, he urged the relevant agencies to prioritize establishing a comprehensive, nationwide broadband inventory map.

"It's common sense that we should know where to best spend the money before the money is actually spent," he said. Because "nationwide broadband mapping may not be complete before the stimulus requires the funds to be spent" by September 2010, perhaps the agencies should first fund projects in states that have completed maps, Stearns added.

Witnesses representing state and local governments and industry told Stearns that if states start mapping now, they should be able to receive funding before all grants are awarded.

"This [geographic] information that is gathered should be entirely in the public domain," panel member Anthony D. Weiner, D-N.Y., said.

"Openness and transparency have been our guiding principles" in implementation to date, Seifert said in his opening testimony. All public meetings on the broadband programs have been webcast. Those who could not attend virtually or physically were invited to participate via teleconference, and citizens also e-mailed questions.

"This robust approach to public comment will ensure the involvement of taxpayers in the design and implementation of the broadband initiatives in a way that gets recovery act dollars out to the public as quickly as possible to promote job creation and broadband development and deployment," he said. "Moving forward, we will be posting critical funding information, including recipient and fund-use data to accurately track, monitor and report on taxpayer funds."

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.