Sen. Rick Scott Introduces Broadband Buildout Accountability Act to Increase Transparency in Public Investment in Broadband Deployment

February 24, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Rick Scott introduced the Broadband Buildout Accountability Act with Ranking Member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Senator Roger Wicker, to increase transparency for a $42 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Package (BIF) broadband buildout grant awarded to the National Technology Information Administration (NTIA), which is currently exempted from transparency requirements under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Senator Scott’s Broadband Buildout Accountability Act would remove the FOIA exemption and require proof of how the $42 billion is spent to ensure taxpayer dollars are not misused. Senators Marsha Blackburn, Roy Blunt, Shelley Moore Capito, Ted Cruz, Deb Fischer, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, Cynthia Lummis, Jerry Moran, Dan Sullivan, John Thune, Roger Wicker, and Todd Young have also cosponsored the bill.


Senator Rick Scott said, “Americans deserve to know how the government is spending their money—especially on a $42 billion grant that will help get essential internet services to those that need it most. My Broadband Buildout Accountability Act will increase transparency and help ensure this taxpayer money is spent with maximum accountability and return on investment. Spending taxpayer dollars should be a crystal clear process. I thank every Republican colleague of mine on the Commerce, Science and Transportation committee for their support and I urge my colleagues to support this bill which increases government accountability and transparency to Americans everywhere.”


Senator Roger Wicker, Ranking Member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said, “Federal funds alone cannot overcome the obstacles to building and maintaining broadband networks. Taxpayer dollars need to be spent efficiently and targeted where they are needed most. This legislation would bring transparency and accountability to the broadband buildout process, allowing more Americans to get connected as quickly as possible.”


Senator Roy Blunt said, “Expanding broadband to underserved areas is a critical, bipartisan priority. While the administration should move quickly to get broadband funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act out the door, proper oversight is necessary to make sure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely. This bill provides transparency and accountability within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s broadband grant program to help ensure resources are being directed to the areas where they’re needed most.”


Senator Shelley Moore Capito said, “As dollars begin to flow to West Virginia for broadband deployment through our Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, West Virginia’s unserved and underserved communities cannot be left behind. The Broadband Buildout Accountability Act would take critical steps to hold federal agencies accountable and ensure the infrastructure funding goes to the places we intended. This bill is another important action that will help us achieve our goal of delivering fast, affordable, high-speed internet to the communities in West Virginia that need it most.”


Senator Ted Cruz said, “There’s no reason this $42 billion grant should have been exempted from the Administrative Procedure Act in the Infrastructure Bill in the first place, but especially no reason for exempting the grants from the Freedom of Information Act. Shielding this program from transparency eliminates oversight for the billions of dollars going out the door and all but guarantees there will be no accountability for government waste and overbuilding by grant recipients. Expanding broadband and connecting Americans is a worthwhile effort, but it is totally irresponsible to just throw money at the problem with no oversight or accountability.”


Senator Cynthia Lummis said, “Unreliable broadband is one of the biggest impediments to economic development in Wyoming. The Federal Government needs to stop over-building infrastructure in already served areas and focus on the connectivity challenges places like Wyoming continue to face. The Broadband Buildout Accountability Act would help make sure the needs of rural Americans are being appropriately addressed by bringing accountability to the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program.” 


Senator Jerry Moran said, “Expanding broadband connectivity for rural Kansans is vital for the success and longevity of our communities. It’s important that billions of dollars in broadband grants are administered in a transparent manner to make certain the funds are distributed fairly to areas with little to no internet connectivity.”


Senator John Thune said, “Now more than ever, access to high-speed broadband services is critical for communities across South Dakota. This common-sense legislation would help strengthen it by ensuring there is proper oversight of NTIA’s role in administering broadband funding to areas that need it the most.”


Senator Todd Young said, “It is vital that we close the digital divide and deploy broadband to unserved Hoosiers. At the same time, we must ensure proper oversight of federal broadband programs to avoid some of the waste, fraud, and abuse that has occurred in the past. This bill reinstates the Freedom of Information Act rules for NTIA’s new broadband program to help us do just that.”