Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Let Me Bind Your Governement Accountability Document

When I worked at the Northwestern Law Library one of my more pleasurable responsibilities was binding the latest Government Accountability Office reports that arrived as part of the Federal Depository Library Program. In a nutshell, the GAO is a nonpartisan "investigative arm of Congress" that "studies how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars." The reports are concise, well written and fascinating. For a policy wonk dabbler like myself, the relative brevity of the reports coupled with the fascinating range of issues they cover makes for worthwhile reading.

For my Internet Fundamentals class I read a May 2006 (GAO-06-426) report on broadband infrastructure and access in the U.S. Rural areas, for a variety of reasons, don't have nearly the broadband infrastructure that urban and suburban areas enjoy. But not because they'd rather be growing ethanol corn than surfing the Web. The biggest reason, unsurprisingly, is that providers of broadband don't think they'll make a profit. The three main reasons the broadband providers give for not deploying infrastructure in rural areas is population density (namely, the lack of it), terrain (mountains, lots of trees) and something known as backhaul. And the Amish.

Other recent GAO reports that I wish I had more time to peruse include electronic voting challenges, FEMA and The Department of Homeland Security's continued waste, abuse and fraud in regards to their ongoing response to Hurricane Katrina, and a look at the $420 million the U.S. provided to entities in the West Bank and Gaza over the course of 2005 and 2006 in hopes of reforming the Palestine Authority and supporting the piddling Middle East peace process.

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