UPDATE Two senators on committees with telecom oversight want the Government Accountability Office to review the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program. The agency announced last week the program is due to begin enrolling consumers next month. More than 600 providers are participating.
Sens. John Thune (R-SD), ranking member of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, and Roger Wicker (R-MS), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, asked the GAO to review the EBB to determine its effectiveness and efficiency. “The goals of the EBB program are laudable, but as responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars, it is imperative Congress and GAO conduct proper oversight,” they said.
“The FCC quickly adopted rules to establish the program, but despite the program not disbursing any funds to its intended recipients—consumers who are struggling to pay for their broadband service during the pandemic—there have already been calls for billions of dollars in additional support for the EBB program,” the senators wrote in a letter. “Before additional funding is considered for this untested program, we believe proper oversight of this publicly funded program is critical to allowing Congress to thoroughly and carefully consider the program’s benefits.”
They specifically ask the GAO to review whether the FCC established measures in the EBB to prevent waste, fraud and abuse, and whether the Commission’s Office of Economic and Analytics conducted a cost/benefit analysis. They also want to know how the agency will review documentation to ensure fraudulent claims are caught.