EAGLE-Net Resumes Buildout, But Will Be Audited

BTOP Grantee Under Scrutiny of Commerce IG and House Energy & Commerce Committee

This week brought good news and bad for EAGLE-Net Alliance, the $100.6 million Broadband Technology and Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant cable operators have complained has been overbuilding their existing government grant.

According to a community outreach bulletin issued by alliance, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, on the advice of the Commerce Department's National

Telecommunications & Information Administration, which oversees the BTOP grants, has lifted its suspension of the award (though with some caveats) and it will resume the statewide infrastructure build-out.

The bad news is that Commerce plans to audit the grant, according to Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chair of the House Communications Subcommittee. Walden and other Republican legislators sent a letter to the Department of Commerce inspector general applauding the audit and asking that the IG collect additional information specific to EAGLE-Net, including "the extent of overbuilding, how the planned network design has changed since the original award to the Colorado Centennial Board of Cooperative Educational Services, how much of the funds remain uncommitted, and the schedule for future build out with the unallocated funds."

They have also asked that the GAO ramp up oversight of government broadband grants and loans.

The EAGLE-Net grant came up in a subcommittee oversight hearing of the $7 billion BTOP program in February, where Republicans, including Walden, complained about what they said was the waste, fraud and overbuilding in the program, including about the EABLE-Net project, which was defended by NTIA chief Larry Strickling, who suggested complaints about EAGLE-Net had come from others who had lost the bid for the grant money.

Asked whether BTOP programs were overbuilding existing service, he said it depended on the definition of "overbuild." He said that the presence of 4 Mbps service was not the same as having the 100 Mbps service that many schools needed.