GOP Senator Alleges NTIA Official Gave Misleading Testimony


A GOP Senator from Missouri says NTIA is pushing BEAD rate regulation on states while denying that to Congress

Joel Leighton GOP Senator Alleges NTIA Official Gave Misleading Testimony Photo of Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Mo., from the senator’s website

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2024 – Capitol Hill Republicans and the Biden administration continue to quarrel over implementation of the $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program run by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

A recent letter from Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Mo., accused an NTIA official of potentially misleading members of Congress in denying BEAD came with rate regulation requirements for low-income Internet users.

“It is… concerning that you potentially misled members of Congress on your agency’s willful violation of the law,” Schmitt said, referring to NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson.

NTIA has come under criticism from several Republicans who claim it is pressuring states to allocate federal funding for broadband infrastructure only to providers offering a low-cost option with a specific price. Republicans have called this requirement a form of rate regulation, which is prohibited under the The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

Davidson recently appeared before a House oversight hearing and said that the low-cost option requirement cannot be considered rate regulation because providers voluntarily join the BEAD program.

“Nobody’s requiring a service provider to follow these rates. People do not have to participate in the program,” Davidson said.

Davidson also said that states have been able to offer price ranges, reflecting NTIA’s flexible approach to the issue.

Schmitt said that the voluntary nature of the BEAD program was obvious, and yet Congress still included statutory language prohibiting rate regulation.

“If the will of Congress was for NTIA or states to condition BEAD participation on providers agreeing to regulation of their rates, it would not have enacted such a provision explicitly prohibiting it,” Schmitt said.

Schmitt’s letter is the latest complaint leveled by Republican policymakers at the NTIA for alleged violations of the ban on rate regulation. 

Virginia and NTIA at Odds on BEAD Low-Cost Option

The state wants to avoid setting out a price or formula for what BEAD-funded providers can charge low-income households.

The letter used a recent interaction between the NTIA and the state of Virginia as an example of the agency “aggressively insisting” on rate regulation.

Although Virginia’s BEAD Volume 2 proposal necessitated that broadband providers submit the price of their low-cost options, with proof of its affordability based on a comparative market analysis, NTIA’s feedback still mandated an “exact price or formula” for final approval, Schmitt said.


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“[If you continue] giving preference to states that agree to a specific price… please know that I, along with colleagues on the committee, plan to use the fullest extent of our oversight authority to hold you accountable.” Schmitt said.