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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 11/18/2010

Now that broadband grants are out, Commerce seeks money to make sure funds aren't misused

By Cecilia Kang

The Commerce Department is done doling out $4 billion in broadband Internet grants. Now, it says it doesn't have enough money for oversight and monitoring of those grants to ensure they were put to good use.

In its quarterly report released Wednesday evening, Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration urged Congress to approve $23.7 million requested by President Obama for broadband stimulus oversight.

"Such funding is critically important to ensure that NTIA can effectively administer and monitor ... grants and to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent consistent with the Recovery Act's purposes," wrote NTIA, the telecom policy arm of the White House.

Indeed, the Commerce Department's Inspector General wrote in a report earlier this month that it was concerned with current oversight and management of grants, such as computer training for administrative staff. And it said funds to oversee the 233 grants would run out in December.

The stimulus program for broadband grants has been praised by supporters who say the money was a one-time opportunity to expand broadband Internet connections to areas that are normally overlooked by service providers. At the same time, the grants were intended to create hard hat and engineering jobs right away.

But nearly two years after a total of $7 billion was allocated for the Agricultural Department and Commerce to distribute grants, many projects have yet to get off the ground. But the department said it is on track with its program. Analyst Rebecca Arbogast of Stifel Nicolaus said the Republican-led House may call the NTIA in for hearings on the broadband stimulus program.

Last week, all recipients of the second round grants by NTIA met in Dulles to learn how to navigate the federal government's grants program.

Part of the money is allocated to adoption programs, such as those run by Laura Efurd, of Zero Divide in San Francisco; and Matthew Guilford, of the City of Chicago's Department of Innovation and Technology.

In the following video, they talk about their rewards and how they will be used to get people to use the Web once they have access.

By Cecilia Kang  | November 18, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Broadband  
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