Programs that provided $7 billion from the 2009 U.S. stimulus plan to spread high-speed Internet service to underserved areas of the country have wasted millions of dollars and unfairly competed with private companies, according to a lawmaker with oversight of the programs, Bloomberg reported.
"The government has spent millions on equipment it did not need and on stringing fiber to areas that already had fiber," Oregon Rep. Greg Walden said in an e-mail Monday.
Walden is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce panel's communications subcommittee, which is to hold a hearing Wednesday on the spending. The hearing is scheduled as Republicans and Democrats argue over across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect March 1 unless there's an agreement.
Many projects funded under the programs haven't been completed and some have been criticized as overbuilding, or installing lines where private companies already offer broadband service, according to a memo prepared by the subcommittee's Republican staff.
A Commerce Department official said problems have been identified with nine of 233 projects awarded, and that the department has taken enforcement actions "to ensure that taxpayer dollars weren't being wasted."