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House Panel Launches Probe Into Wireless Broadband Firm House Panel Launches Probe Into Wireless Broadband Firm

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House Panel Launches Probe Into Wireless Broadband Firm

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has launched an investigation into a $267 million loan provided to a wireless broadband company by the Agriculture Department's Rural Utilities Service.

In a letter to RUS Administrator Jonathan Adelstein, key Republicans and Democrats on the committee asked for information about the loan made under the 2002 farm bill to Open Range Communications, which filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 6. The committee noted that the Agriculture Department's inspector general has raised concerns about the agency's broadband program.

"Open Range's bankruptcy potentially puts $73.5 million of taxpayer money at risk," committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and the Democratic and GOP leaders of the panel's Oversight and Communications subcommittees wrote.

The panel has asked the Rural Utilities Service to brief it on the process the agency used to provide the loan to Open Range and its oversight of the company, as well as information about other broadband loans made by the agency.

On its website, Open Range, which planned to provide wireless broadband service to under-served areas in 17 states within five years, said an unnamed company has plans to buy it and continue offering service.

The committee also is investigting federal government loans made to solar maker Solyndra, which also filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

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