U.S. Inspector General Outlines Concerns with Bay Area BTOP Grant (1/13/12)
Friday, January 13, 2012 | Comments

The U.S. inspector general identified several areas of concern regarding the August 2010 Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) award to Motorola Solutions, including misrepresentations in the application and deficiencies in the due diligence. The $50.6 million grant was for a public-safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) network in the San Francisco Bay Area called Wireless Enhanced Broadband (BayWEB).

Todd Zinser, U.S. inspector general, outlined the findings of the investigation in a memo to Lawrence Strickling, assistant secretary for communications and information for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which oversees the BTOP program. In November 2010, the county executive of Santa Clara County, Calif., requested an investigation of the grant awarded to Motorola Solutions.

“Specifically, the application, not attributable directly to the grantee in this case, misrepresented information regarding the status of a regional governance structure, the readiness of sites for broadband infrastructure, and the region's authority to use the dedicated broadband spectrum,” the letter said. “Although these concerns may not mandate termination of the grant, they have contributed to delays in the project that put at risk the successful completion of the project and the fulfillment of the grant's purpose.”

The findings of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation included the following:

• The project faced challenges from inception partially because of time limitations.

• Defects in the application that NTIA’s due diligence process didn’t detect caused delays that put the BayWEB project at risk.

• The governance structured as presented in the application didn’t exist.

• The application misrepresented the degree of project readiness.

• The application misrepresented the project’s authority to use the broadband spectrum.

• The Bay Area Urban Areas Securities Initiative (UASI) vendor selection process caused confusion and hindered the execution of the project.

• Reliance on letters of support, by both the applicant and NTIA, contributed to the deficiencies in the application process.

“We are aware that Motorola has identified critical milestones … required to successfully complete the project within the award period. As of Jan. 6, 2012, many of those milestones were not fully complete,” the Jan. 10 letter said. “We recommend that NTIA make a determination whether the corrective actions under way by the grantee and political jurisdictions are sufficient to overcome the defects in the initial application. If so, NTIA needs to continue working with Motorola and the Bay Area political jurisdictions to salvage the project.”

"Motorola believes the OIG memo contains no new factual information," the vendor said in a statement. "Motorola will continue to fully cooperate with OIG as it has done throughout the project. Motorola has also worked very closely with the NTIA to regularly provide complete and accurate information regarding the project status and to immediately address all issues delaying or impeding progress on BayWEB. Motorola supports NTIA’s efforts and will continue to work with both NTIA and OIG to move the project forward. Motorola remains committed to the successful completion of BayWEB and the realization of a next-generation public-safety LTE broadband network to serve the Bay Area for years to come."

The lessons learned will benefit not only the administration of current BTOP grants but also any subsequent grant programs that NTIA or other Commerce bureaus may administer, according to the letter.

NTIA's response to the memo is available here.

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