House Energy & Commerce Committee leaders Thursday registered their continuing concern over the EAGLE-Net broadband stimulus grant with the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, which handed out the subsidy and oversees its progress.
In the letter to NTIA chief Larry Strickling, Communications Subcommittee chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), they point out that the committee is still investigating allegations--including by cable operators--that the $100.6 million subsidy is being used to overbuild existing service, rather than extending it to unserved parts of Colorado.
"[T]hose areas of Colorado which truly lack high-speed broadband connectivity - such as the communities along the Western Slope - are still waiting for the promised EAGLE-Net service to be turned on," they wrote. "We remain skeptical of that occurring on time and on budget in light of a February 28, 2013 report indicating that $96 million of the $100.6 million grant has already been committed or spent. Even more troubling to the Committee is EAGLE-Net's recent acknowledgement that only $7.8 million of the original grant money remains despite reports that the project is less than half complete."
They want a raft of documents related to NTIA's review and for NTIA to answer several questions:
1. How did it verify data regarding served and unserved populations in the project area.
2. How did building fiber optic connections to the Cherry Creek School District satisfy eligibility requirements.
3. How did the network design change.
4. Does the project, which is funded by the Broadcast Technology Opportunities Program, overlap
with the USDA's RUS middle mile awards.
5. What are the current revenues and expenses of the project.
6. Why was the project placed on a "corrective action" plan and what corrections have ben made.
They gave Strickling until July 8 to produce the documents and the answers.
EAGLE-Net has said that the grant has rules to help it avoid overbuilding, but also says that its grant satisfies a need for access and "redundancy," and points to the fact that its grant is for a statewide system.
"EAGLE-Net is continuing to work with the NTIA and OIG to provide requested information,” EAGLE-Net President Mike Ryan told Multichannel News.