Did Porkulus do what it was supposed to do? Let’s look at one little aspect of it, courtesy of Nick Schulz:
In an important and eye-opening new paper, Jeffrey Eisenach and Kevin Caves of Navigant Economics, a consulting firm, recently examined ARRA’s subsidization of rural broadband. The ARRA stimulus funds for broadband constitute “the largest Federal subsidies ever provided for broadband construction in the U.S.” An explicit goal of the program was to extend broadband access to homes currently without it.
Eisenach and Caves looked at three areas that received stimulus funds, in the form of loans and direct grants, to expand broadband access in Southwestern Montana, Northwestern Kansas, and Northeastern Minnesota. The median household income in these areas is between $40,100 and $50,900. The median home prices are between $94,400 and $189,000.
So how much did it cost per unserved household to get them broadband access? A whopping $349,234, or many multiples of household income, and significantly more than the cost of a home itself.
You don’t get rich by paying more for things than they’re worth. In fact, that’s a pretty quick way to get poor. But surely a nation as rich as ours can afford to overpay for some rural broad band access, right? Not at these prices:
Sadly, it’s actually worse than that. Take the Montana project. The area is not in any meaningful sense unserved or even underserved. As many as seven broadband providers, including wireless, operate in the area. Only 1.5% of all households in the region had no wireline access. And if you include 3G wireless, there were only seven households in the Montana region that could be considered without access. So the cost of extending access in the Montana case comes to about $7 million for each additional household served. [Emphasis in the original.]
It’s time to audit the ARRA. C’mon, Congress — do your job.