Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Congressman Greg Walden, chairman of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, today released the following statements after President Obama unveiled his proposal to increase spending for wireless broadband and reallocate spectrum previously slated for auction:
"Today the Energy and Commerce Committee is beginning hearings to examine the approximately $7 billion already allocated for broadband services in the stimulus," said Upton. "Before we target any more of our scarce taxpayer dollars for broadband, it is critical to examine whether the money already being spent is having an impact, as well as how we can minimize waste, fraud, and abuse. Let's ensure our resources are being used wisely. After all, even without these billions in taxpayer subsidies, the private sector has already deployed broadband to 95 percent of the country and two-thirds of the country subscribes, according to the FCC's National Broadband Plan."
"I laud the goal but believe we must be cost-efficient about how we go about it and be realistic in our expectations of what taxpayers can afford," said Walden. "In pursuit of the goal of increasing the deployment of wireless broadband to the unserved areas of rural America, it will be important to remember the colloquial definition of "insanity': repeating the same actions and expecting different results."
Walden's subcommittee held a hearing today to begin discussion of legislation to improve oversight of the $7 billion in broadband spending provided through the stimulus package in 2009. The draft proposal would improve accountability and transparency for taxpayers by returning unused funds to the U.S. Treasury as part of a broader effort to capture excess funds rather than allowing federal agencies to redirect funds to other spending objectives.
In regards to the President's proposal to reallocate the D-block spectrum to public safety, Upton responded, "Ultimately, we all share the same goal of creating a nationwide, interoperable public safety network. In 2010, the FCC's national broadband plan found that both our public safety and wireless broadband goals would be better met by auctioning the D-Block -- a conclusion that garnered bipartisan support in the Energy and Commerce Committee. I hope the President's upcoming budget will shed light on how these proposals will produce the revenue he is proposing to spend and still achieve our public safety, wireless broadband, and deficit reduction priorities. When it comes to broadband, the answer is not simply more federal dollars with federal strings attached. I hope the President's proposal includes meaningful steps to remove roadblocks to innovation and ensure federal agencies are not creating any new ones.
"While I would welcome most any plan that actually raises $27.8 billion, I would caution against turning around and spending the majority of it in the current economic environment. Job creation and deficit reduction should be the priorities for the 112th Congress, not more spending."