Government Accountability Office
Affordable Broadband: FCC Could Improve Performance Goals and Measures, Consumer Outreach, and Fraud Risk Management
Access to broadband—high-speed internet—has become critical for everyday life. But its cost may keep some people from having access to it. The Federal Communications Commission's Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) offers eligible low-income households discounts on the cost of their broadband service and certain devices. FCC reimburses participating internet service providers for providing these discounts. To make it more affordable for low-income Americans, the FCC's Affordable Connectivity Program offers monthly discounts on broadband service to eligible households.
Broadband Funding: Stronger Management of Performance and Fraud Risk Needed for Tribal and Public-Private Partnership Grants
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, established two new broadband grant programs—the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) and Broadband Infrastructure Program (BIP), administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) within the Department of Commerce. NTIA’s process generally aligned with recommended practices. However, NTIA’s current performance goals and measures will not tell the whole story of whether these programs succeed.
Telecommunications Workforce: Additional Workers Will Be Needed to Deploy Broadband, but Concerns Exist About Availability
Recent legislation included big increases in federal funding for the deployment of broadband, which is increasingly critical to daily life, but unavailable in some areas. Our analysis found that thousands more skilled workers will be needed to deploy broadband and 5G funded by recent federal programs. If this work is spread over 10 years, the funding would support about 23,000 additional workers at its peak. A shorter timespan could require even more of them. We found mixed evidence on whether there's a shortage of these workers.
The VA used supplemental COVID funding from three different bills to support expanded telehealth services and remote operations during the worst of the pandemic.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) received approximately $36.70 billion in supplemental funding outside of its annual appropriation from three COVID-19 relief laws between 2020 and 2021: the CARES Act; the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA); and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). As of August 23, 2022, VA had obligated approximately 99 percent of its funds from the CARES Act and FFCRA and 56.9 percent of funds from ARPA.
Since 2019, the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) ReConnect program has awarded millions of dollars in grants and loans to broadband providers for expanding service in rural areas. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) makes three recommendations to USDA on how to improve the ReConnect Program: