While investing some money into broadband infrastructure (especially given the amount we spend on war) is not a bad idea, implementation in many states has been problematic. West Virginia has probably been the poster child for corruption and incompetence
when it comes to broadband stimulus funds, the state (with Verizon's help) spending millions on over-power, unused routers and expensive consultants who apparently don't actually do anything
. That State's currently facing a significant investigation.
The NY Times
this week misses West Virginia's problems, but takes a look at some other examples of funds being spent stupidly, noting that around $594 million (or 14%) of all the stimulus funds are on hold due to dubious practices and spending. A few examples:
In Illinois, for example, a $12 million broadband grant was sanctioned when a subcontractor was caught routing fiber optic cable through neighborhoods where its project engineers lived. A $39 million grant in Arizona was suspended over questionable expenditures on travel, transactions that appeared to involve conflicts of interest and other unbudgeted activities.
Broadband grants in Alabama and Louisiana, totaling $140 million, were terminated over undocumented expenditures and failure to adhere to construction plans and schedules. Four other grants, worth $42 million, returned the money before even getting off the ground.
Granted you might actually think that a 14% fraud and incompetence rate is actually pretty good
for a U.S. government with a history of fraud and abuse of these kinds of funds. The Times
also fails to provide a little context, like the fact we've been throwing hundreds of billions at giant telecom operators for thirty years without so much as even trying
to track where the funds went.
Regardless of what you think of the broadband stimulus, the fact that the majority of the funds appear to actually be going to real projects is a huge step up for Uncle Sam.