The Department of Commerce’s Office of Inspector General issued a flash report concerning the Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program (BTOP). This program was allocated $4.7 billion in the stimulus bill, with a goal of bringing broadband to unserved and underserved areas. It is administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA).
Of particular interest are the concerns outlined in the brief. First, the report says there are concerns with the administration of such a large program. For 2008, the NTIA administered grants of only $16.8 million. The Technology Opportunities Program, also administered by the NTIA, totaled $233 million in grants over a 10-year time period. Though the dollars are real, it’s hard to imagine how the NTIA will manage a $4.7 Billion short-term program with such little comparative experience.
Second, the report identifies the likelihood that many grantees will be unable to finish their projects within the mandated deadline. It is recommended Congress allow for case-by-case extensions, as well as extending the overall spending deadline an additional year (currently set at September 30, 2010).
This report by the OIG illustrates reality hitting home for the administration of stimulus funds. You can be assured other agencies are scrambling, too. Look for deadlines to slip and program time-lines to be extended as agencies staff up to manage the process, and the practical challenges unfold.