GOP lawmakers knock FCC broadband testing

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., was one of the letter's authors.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., was one of the letter's authors. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP file photo

Agency spent $1 million in stimulus funds on British firm to evaluate network.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans are complaining that federal officials spent about $1 million to pay a British company to test American broadband speeds.

SamKnows, a company based in the United Kingdom that the Federal Communications Commission tapped to help measure broadband speeds, was the recipient of that $1 million, which came from $4.7 billion in stimulus funds set aside for broadband development.

"That stimulus funding, meant to help here at home, was sent abroad to U.K. company SamKnows and - according to the Recovery.Gov website - created no jobs," Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., Communications and Technology Subcommittee Vice Chairman Lee Terry, R-Neb., and Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., wrote in a letter to the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. "What was the rationale for sending Americans' hard earned money overseas for a project that didn't put any Americans to work, especially in the current fiscal climate?"

FCC spokesman Neil Grace said the agency is "mystified by this attack on transparency and consumer empowerment."

"The Measuring Broadband America initiative is a powerful example of the pro-market, pro-competition benefits of information disclosure: Low performers in the first year's report responded by investing in significant network upgrades, driving major improvements in performance and faster speeds for millions of Americans, and creating jobs both directly and indirectly," he said in an e-mail to Tech Daily Dose.

That testing, the FCC says, will help improve adoption and development of high-speed Internet service.

The four GOP lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee aren't so sure. They criticized FCC plans to expand broadband testing.

"Assertions that the study was necessary as a matter of broadband policy are dubious." they wrote. "Such speech information is already available from a number of sources without expenditure of additional taxpayer dollars."

According to the FCC, the expansion of the testing comes at no additional cost to taxpayers.