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Coalition Letter Regarding Broadband Infrastructure Spending

July 23, 2021

RE: Broadband Infrastructure Spending

Dear Senators:

We write to you today over some concerning developments in the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations on broadband. We are guided by the principles of limited government and believe that the flaws in the infrastructure framework go well beyond the issues discussed here. Nonetheless, our present aim is to advocate specifically against proposals that would enact price controls, dramatically expand agency authority, and prioritize government-controlled internet. 

The infrastructure plan should not include rate regulation of broadband services. Congress should not authorize any federal or governmental body to set the price of any broadband offering. Even steps that open the door to rate regulation of broadband services will prove harmful in the long run.  

Nor should Congress continue to abdicate its oversight responsibilities to executive branch agencies like the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Giving NTIA unchecked authority to modify or waive requirements, renders all guardrails placed by Congress meaningless. There must be oversight of the programs to ensure that taxpayer dollars go toward connecting more Americans to broadband as opposed to wasteful pet projects. 

Historically, attempts by NTIA to close the digital divide through discretionary grants have failed, leading to wasteful overbuilds, corruption, and improper expenditures. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created the $4 billion Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant program administered by NTIA. From 2009, when BTOP was instituted, to 2017, at least one-third of all the reports made by the Inspector General for the Department of Commerce were related to the BTOP program, and census data showed that the BTOP program had no positive effect on broadband adoption. And this was with only $4 billion in taxpayer dollars. We cannot afford to make the same mistake with much greater sums.

Legislation must be clear and not create ambiguities that are left to the whims of regulators. While “digital redlining” is unacceptable, the FCC should not be allowed to define the term however it sees fit and promulgate any regulations it thinks will solve problems—real or imagined. Doing so would give the agency carte blanche to regulate and micromanage broadband in any way it desires. This would be an egregious expansion of FCC authority. Moreover, definitions and regulations could change whenever party control of the agency changes, leading to a back-and-forth that creates uncertainty for consumers and businesses. 

Legitimate desire to ensure that low-income Americans have access to broadband infrastructure should not be used as a smokescreen to codify aspects of the recent Executive Order on Competition, which should not be included in any bipartisan infrastructure agreement. Republicans fought hard to support the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order. Any legislating on the functions and deployment of Internet technologies must move as a standalone bill through regular order with committee review. These questions are far too important to shoehorn into a massive bill without rigorous debate.   

Any funding for broadband buildout must target locations without any broadband connection first, and this should be determined by the Congressionally mandated FCC broadband maps. Congress has oversight over the FCC and the FCC has already conducted several reverse auctions. Reverse auctions get the most out of each taxpayer dollar towards closing the digital divide. Areas where there is already a commitment from a carrier to build out a network, should not be considered for grants, and the NTIA should not be able to override the FCC’s map to redefine “unserved” and subsidize duplicative builds.  

Government-controlled Internet should not be prioritized in any grant program. With few exceptions, government-owned networks (GONs) have been abject failures. For example, KentuckyWired is a 3,000-mile GON that was sold to taxpayers as a $350 million project that would be complete by spring of 2016. Those projections could not have been more wrong.   More than five years past the supposed completion date, fiber construction for KentuckyWired is still “in progress” in some parts of the state and a report from the state auditor has concluded that taxpayers will end up wasting a whopping $1.5 billion on this redundant “government owned network” over its 30-year life. NTIA should certainly not encourage these failures to be replicated.

We appreciate your work to help close the digital divide and agree that access to reliable internet is a priority, however we should not use this need to serve as a cover for unnecessary

government expansion. Please feel free to reach out to any of the undersigned organizations or individuals should you have questions or comments. 


Grover G. Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform 

Jennifer Huddleston*
Director of Technology & Innovation Policy
American Action Forum 

Phil Kerpen
American Commitment 

Krisztina Pusok, Ph. D.
American Consumer Institute
Center for Citizen Research 

Brent Wm. Gardner
Chief Government Affairs Officer
Americans for Prosperity 

Jeffrey Mazzella
Center for Individual Freedom 

Andrew F. Quinlan
Center for Freedom and Prosperity 

Jessica Melugin
Director Center for Technology and Innovation
Competitive Enterprise Institute 

Matthew Kandrach
Consumer Action for a Strong Economy 

Yaël Ossowski
Deputy Director
Consumer Choice Center 

Roslyn Layton, PhD
China Tech Threat 

Ashley Baker
Director of Public Policy
The Committee for Justice 

Tom Schatz
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste 

Katie McAuliffe
Executive Director
Digital Liberty 

Annette Thompson Meeks
Freedom Foundation of Minnesota 

Adam Brandon

George Landrith
Frontiers of Freedom 

Garrett Bess
Vice President
Heritage Action for America 

Carrie Lukas
Independent Women's Forum 

Heather Higgins
Independent Women's Voice 

Tom Giovanetti
Institute for Policy Innovation 

Ted Bolema
Executive Director
Institute for the Study of Economic Growth 

Seton Motley
Less Government 

Zach Graves
Head of Policy
Lincoln Network 

Matthew Gagnon
Chief Executive Officer
Maine Policy Institute 

Matthew Nicaud
Tech Policy Specialist
Mississippi Center for Public Policy 

Brandon Arnold
Executive Vice President
National Taxpayers Union 

Tom Hebert
Executive Director
Open Competition Center 

Ellen Weaver
President & CEO
Palmetto Promise Institute 

Eric Peterson
Pelican Center for Technology and Innovation 

Lorenzo Montanari
Executive Director
Property Rights Alliance 

Jeffrey Westling
Resident Fellow, Technology & Innovation Policy
R Street Institute 

James L. Martin
60 Plus Association 

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis
60 Plus Association 

David Williams
Taxpayers Protection Alliance 

Dann Mead Smith
Washington Policy enter

Mark Harmsworth
Small Business Director
Washington Policy Center

* individual signer; organization listed for identification purposes only