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Illinois senator criticizes Opticom award

480px Senator Mark Kirk official portraitThe $64 million awarded to Gallatin Gateway-based Internet provider Montana Opticom last year has a new critic, Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk.

Kirk bestowed his monthly “Silver Fleece” award upon Opticom’s stimulus award. The Illinois Republican uses his “fleece” award to spotlight what he considers wasteful government spending and examples of “why exactly we need to enact the Cut, Cap and Balance Act.”

In case you don’t recall, Opticom received $64 million in stimulus money (half loan and half grant) from the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service as part of a stimulus-driven initiative to expand broadband coverage to rural parts of the country.

Kirk bases his “fleece” award on a report written by Navigant Economics, which used the Opticom award was one of three examples of poor spending choices made by the Rural Utilities Service.

It should be noted that Navigant is based in Chicago — in Kirk’s home state — and that its study was funded by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, an industry group that generally opposes government subsidies for telecommunications infrastructure building.

The Navigant report is embedded below.