According to GOP report language on the bill, that money was split between the Commerce Department and the Agriculture Department to help spur investment in broadband access in rural and remote areas of the country. But the report notes that 233 of the awards under the Commerce Department program worth $38.7 million were returned, mostly grants for Wisconsin and Indiana.
While last year's Dodd-Frank financial reform law included new language giving agency heads the option of returning unused grant money to the Treasury Department, House Republicans want to require the money be returned in these cases.
They also argue that the broadband grants need greater oversight, citing complaints that some grant funding appeared to be released before the government had a good sense of exactly which areas of the country needed these funds.
"Some observers expressed concern that this placed 'the cart before the horse,' and that allocating funds before maps of unserved areas were in place almost guaranteed that the money would not be used effectively," the report language for the bill says. "Some cable and phone companies believe awards have been issued for projects that substantially duplicate their existing service areas."
To resolve this issue, the bill would require greater oversight of the broadband grants.
The GOP report language also noted that of about $4 billion in grant funding made available, only $138 million had been spend by the end of 2010. Broadband grants were required to be made by Sept. 30, 2010.
Republicans plan to bring up the bill under a suspension of House rules — a process usually reserved for noncontroversial bills — which requires a two-thirds majority vote. However, Democrats have consistently supported the need for expanded broadband access across the U.S., and many are likely to oppose the bill.