Effort to Bring Internet to Rural America Becomes $4 Billion Headache

A $4 billion federal program was supposed to provide access to job opportunities, education resources, health care and government services via high-speed Internet to rural Americans. Questions are now being raised about how that money has been spent.

Edward Wyatt investigates the growing controversy surrounding the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, part of the Obama administration’s 2009 economic stimulus effort. The program was launched with an altruistic aim: "to extend high-speed Internet access to parts of the country that had little or none of it because private companies said it was too expensive to build." Only 40 percent of rural households have access to high-speed cable Internet, compared to 88 percent of urban households.

"But," writes Wyatt, "local phone companies have complained about waste or unfair competition, like using some of the grants to build fiber networks where they already exist — including, in Colorado, in the easily accessible eastern plains that include Agate — rather than where they are most needed, in rural mountain towns."

"Nationally, $594 million in spending has been temporarily or permanently halted, 14 percent of the overall program, and the Commerce Department’s inspector general has raised questions about the program’s ability to adequately monitor spending of the more than 230 grants."

Full Story: Waste Is Seen in Program to Give Internet Access to Rural U.S.

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