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Coalition Tells Senate Commerce Committee: Avoid Past Broadband Infrastructure Blunders

by NTU Staff / /


Senate Commerce Committee
512 Dirksen Senate Building
Washington DC, 20510

Dear Members of the Senate Commerce Committee:

The undersigned groups, representing millions of taxpayers nationwide, applaud your work on ensuring that proper oversight is exercised to protect taxpayers’ interests in preparation for a possible infrastructure bill.

Today’s hearing on infrastructure and information networks is critical for all Americans.  There are important questions that must be asked to determine the best approach for the role of the public sector in these endeavors.

While the need for expanding broadband access to rural Americans is real, we would caution that there is a long history of problems when government plays the lead role in planning, building, and maintaining communications networks. 

In the past, government has used “stimulus” programs and other broadband-expansion programs that have allowed and even encouraged government ownership of broadband networks, and the results have not been good. 

The Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP) and Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP), as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), spent billions of taxpayer funds to fix the problem of “unserved areas” in rural communities across America. Unfortunately, the results were less than ideal, and resulted in only a modest improvement in rural broadband access. 

Across the country, there has been a consistent pattern of taxpayer-funded broadband networks failing. The United States Congress and the Trump Administration should not look to repeat, much less expand upon these failures by following the same pattern.  The failure of these public-sector projects continues to grow.  The following linked website provides a map outlining 215 government-internet failures that continue to cost taxpayers.

Billions of dollars have been wasted on these networks without solving the problem of bringing broadband to unserved rural areas.  The Senate must take care that any new infrastructure legislation does not cause that number to grow. 

Instead, the Senate should look for creative ways that will enable the private sector to lead the way, as they have already done over the last two decades. New technologies thrive when government encourages them by removing regulatory and tax burdens at the federal, state, and local levels.  Alternatively, government intrusion into a sector as complicated and innovative as broadband provision is likely to reduce private investment, which will ultimately harm consumers and increase the risk to taxpayers.

We encourage the Committee to explore ways to remove government barriers to broadband expansion and to seek the advice and participation of the growing number of broadband providers to solve the problem of unserved rural areas.

Sincerely,

David Williams, President
Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Grover Norquist, President
Americans for Tax Reform

Phil Kerpen, President
American Commitment

Jeff Mazzella, President
Center for Individual Freedom

Katie McAuliffe, Executive Director
Digital Liberty

George Landrith, President
Frontiers of Freedom

Andrew Langer, President
Institute for Liberty

Seton Motley, President
Less Government

Pete Sepp, President
National Taxpayers Union

Drew Johnson, National Director
Protect Internet Freedom