Dems tout positive report on government broadband

Internet access is faster, more reliable and less expensive in places with federally funded broadband programs, according to a study out of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that Hill Democrats are touting as a win for the Democratic agenda and administration.

The study — done at the behest of members of Congress — was commissioned to examine the affect of government broadband programs on small businesses. The GAO found that broadband networks funded by federal or municipal programs were likely to have better speeds than similar networks without government funding.

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“Service providers have used federal funding for expansions and upgrades, such as building out to previously unserved areas and replacing old copper lines with fiber optic cable, resulting in faster and more reliable broadband connections,” the GAO wrote in its study, published on Monday.

Though federal broadband programs — such as the Connect America Fund or the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program — have broad targets and do not measure their impact on small businesses specifically, GAO found that small businesses benefit from these programs.

“According to small businesses GAO met with, the speed and reliability of their broadband service improved after they began using federally funded or municipal networks,” and “the improvements to broadband service have helped the businesses improve efficiency and streamline operations,” according to the report.

In a statement, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member on the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, touted the study.

“GAO’s investigation confirms the success of the Recovery Act’s broadband programs," Waxman said.  

The programs expanded Internet access, which “is critical for American competiveness in the 21st century global economy,” he said. “These were public dollars well spent.”  

Eshoo said the GAO report “confirms that when it comes to closing our digital divide, federal investment in broadband deployment has been pivotal to the success of America’s small businesses.”"