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Cruz, Thune Press FCC for Full Accounting of ACP, ECF, COVID-19 Telehealth Disbursals

Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Communications Subcommittee ranking member John Thune, R-S.D., pressed the FCC in a letter we obtained ahead of its planned sending Thursday morning for a detailed accounting of its distribution of money to four broadband programs enacted via the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and COVID-19 aid measures. Thune in December began his own review of all federal broadband programs’ oversight of funding disbursals. Cruz has joined Thune in raising concerns about some of these programs since taking over as lead Commerce Republican in January.

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Cruz and Thune sought FCC details by March 29 about its disbursals and planned outlays for the affordable connectivity program, its predecessor emergency broadband benefit program, emergency connectivity fund and COVID-19 telehealth program. “Ensuring these funds are well spent is essential to improving broadband connectivity, and American families deserve to know that their taxes are going to programs free of waste, fraud, and abuse,” the GOP leaders wrote FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. The FCC didn’t immediately comment.

Unfortunately, as with other pandemic-era legislation, it appears that waste, fraud, and abuse may be widespread in these programs,” Cruz and Thune said. They cited past FCC Office of Inspector General reports about fraud in the EBB and ACP programs and a January GAO report that found problems with the commission’s goals and measures for ACP efficacy. “Although the FCC and its OIG have done some good work to mitigate some of the worst instances of waste, fraud, and abuse of these programs, much more needs to be done to ensure there is a full and accurate accounting of the billions of tax dollars appropriated to these programs,” the Republicans said.