A key stimulus program to bring Internet service to rural America may not be up to the job of spending its $2.5 billion in extra funding effectively, according to a report (PDF) released Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s inspector general.
Monday’s report found that the Rural Utilities Service continues to grant loans to areas that already have broadband service and to communities near major cities.
“We remain concerned with RUS’ current direction of the broadband program, particularly as they receive greater funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” Assistant Inspector General Robert W. Young wrote. “RUS’ broadband program may not meet the Recovery Act’s objective of awarding funds to projects that provide service to the most rural residents that do not have access to broadband service.”
In written comments attached to the report, the Agriculture Department said the law creating the broadband program contained no restrictions as to proximity to major cities. “Rural” was defined only as a community with fewer than 20,000 people.
More than 90 percent of the loan applications the agency has approved since the critical report in 2005 went to areas that already had broadband service, the report said. “OIG remains concerned because the overwhelming majority of communities…receiving service through the broadband program already have access to the technology,” Young wrote.
Will Obama fire the AG IG too?