StimulatingBroadband.com 09/10/09 The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Commerce has begun a review of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) managed by the Department's National Information and Telecommunications Administration (NTIA).
According to the OIG's website, the BTOP review is the 22nd such process launched during calendar year 2009.
The review was announced in a Memorandum (download: .PDF) dated September 2 addressed to Assistant Commerce Secretary Larry Strickling, head of the NTIA, Judith Gordon, Principal Assistant Inspector General (IG) for Audit and Evaluation at Commerce.
The Memorandum specifically identifies 3 areas of the OIG's review:
1. Assessment of the organizational effectiveness of NTIA as it administers BTOP, looking at "management controls, contractor oversight, and program office staffing."
2. NTIA's "proposal pre-award review measures...to ensure an effective and fair application and award process."
3. The "integrity and reliability of the online application system."
As we previously reported, the announcement of early July that NTIA was recruiting volunteer reviewers to process the applications for BTOP funds, initially set-off a firestorm of controversy in the blogosphere, and from state broadband program officials. On August 27, NTIA and its sister agency administering the total $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program, the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, announced that just under 2,200 applications were received in Round I of the program.
As was widely reported, between those 2 announcements the online application processing system deployed jointly by NTIA - RUS malfunctioned. An unknown number of electronic applicants experienced system "kick outs," long delays, and rejection of electronically assigned account numbers. NTIA-RUS extended the electronic application filing deadline, and greatly expanded both the server and help desk capacities supporting the online application system.
As we first reported on August 13, the system, branded as Easygrants™ by its developer, Altum, Inc. of Reston, VA, malfunctioned to the point that NTIA-RUS extended the electronic application filing deadline by 6 days, with a further 5 day extension for manually field application attachments. StimualtingBroadband.com published 6 alerts and advisories about the delayed application filing process, and the agency response to the problem, during the period August 13 - 20. StimulatingBroadband.com