As the select committee argues about how to cut the federal budget, billions of dollars are being wasted on thousands of projects which will do little good for the country as a whole. We, by now, have all heard about Solyndra, LightSquared, Tesla Motors and Fisker Motors.
Another little mentioned sink hole for taxpayer dollars is rural broadband. Louisiana and North Florida have both had their “middle mile” broadband stimulus programs halted by NOAA, the one agency that actually seems to be doing a good job overseeing the various projects it has loaned money to. Louisiana’s 80 million dollar project was halted due to lack of progress, and North Florida’s 30.1 million dollar project because of possible conflicts of interest. The City of Tallahassee was also forced to return the 1.2 million dollars for its broadband project for similar reasons.
Meanwhile, Windstream is busy spending 17.4 Million dollars in Iowa to serve, hold on to you seat, 30 potential customers! This company is also spending $416,000 of our tax money in Mississippi to serve 170 customers. In Kentucky, Windstream received 59.7 million taxpayer dollars to serve 2000 customers. All told, Windstream’s take was 138 million dollars.
Wisconsin returned it’s 23 million dollars, claiming the government had too many strings attached to the money.
While some of these projects make a certain amount of sense, spending 5.2 million taxpayer dollars to serve 80 people and businesses in Alaska seems a little excessive, especially since satellite Internet service is available almost anywhere and as a country our debt is now greater than our gross domestic product. Perhaps this money could have been better spent paying down our massive debt.
In all 7.2 Billion Taxpayer dollars were appropriated for extending broadband into rural areas. So far, 4 Billion of the 4.7 Billion allocated to the BTOP program have been dolled out, and 3.59 Billion has been awarded in the BIP program.