Young, Wicker propose bill to hold NTIA accountable for $42B broadband buildout grant

U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Todd Young (R-IN) recently joined a dozen other Republicans to introduce legislation that would increase transparency around a broadband buildout grant awarded to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

Specifically, the Broadband Buildout Accountability Act, S. 3671, would remove the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemption for NTIA and require proof of how the agency spends the $42 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act broadband buildout grant it received, according to a bill summary provided by the senators’ staffs.

“It is vital that we close the digital divide and deploy broadband to unserved Hoosiers. At the same time, we must ensure proper oversight of federal broadband programs to avoid some of the waste, fraud, and abuse that has occurred in the past,” Sen. Young said. “This bill reinstates the Freedom of Information Act rules for NTIA’s new broadband program to help us do just that.”

Sens. Wicker and Young are original cosponsors of S. 3671, which was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL). Among the lawmakers who joined in introducing the bill on Feb. 16 are U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and John Thune (R-SD).

“Federal funds alone cannot overcome the obstacles to building and maintaining broadband networks,” said Sen. Wicker, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. “Taxpayer dollars need to be spent efficiently and targeted where they are needed most.

“This legislation would bring transparency and accountability to the broadband buildout process, allowing more Americans to get connected as quickly as possible,” he added.

The bill has been referred for consideration to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.