Federal agencies with jurisdiction over broadband deployment in rural areas are not coordinating their decisions on funding, resulting in duplicative service in some areas while others remain unserved, according to a Senate report.
The Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee recently approved a bill (S-1294) to require the FCC, the Rural Utilities Service of the Department of Agriculture and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to enter into an interagency agreement requiring coordination and information sharing.
“These agencies presently are not required to coordinate their funding decisions. As a result, funding from the programs is sometimes spent overbuilding areas that already have broadband service or that will be served by a project funded by another agency. At a recent hearing, broadband providers offered examples of duplicative overbuilds by competitors using federal dollars, some from multiple agencies,” the report says.
“When federal funds are spent overbuilding an area, less support is available for other areas—which many believe undermines the purpose of these programs,” it adds.
Under the bill—now ready for a floor vote following the filing of the report—the FCC would be primarily responsible for coordinating information sharing among the agencies, and storing and maintaining access to broadband deployment data.