Promoting Transparency in Government Oversight

Citizens deserve to know the details about government programs, including financial subsidies. At times, creating transparency is the only way to influence public policy. WR Communications took this approach on behalf of a client in 2012-2013 - a client whose members were put at a disadvantage by a federal stimulus program subsidy.


EAGLE-Net Alliance, a self-described "Colorado intergovernmental entity," was the recipient of a $100.6 million federal stimulus grant in 2010 to bring high-speed Internet to schools across the state.

Soon it became clear that EAGLE-Net was "over-building," expanding its network into areas already served by telecom providers and ignoring other less populated areas that truly needed the access. EAGLE-Net also signaled that its mission now included delivering connectivity to "anchor institutions" (e.g., law enforcement, libraries, cities and towns), in effect using its federal funding to compete with small, rural telecom carriers.

Building Awareness

These private telecom providers are represented by the Colorado Telecommunications Association (CTA). In 2012, CTA directed WR Communications to implement a public affairs campaign to highlight the EAGLE-Net situation in an attempt to keep telecom competition on a level playing field.

Washington - The first step was raise the visibility of EAGLE-Net's activities with federal policymakers. In October 2012, CTA's communication with Colorado's congressional delegation helped prompt Congressmen Gardner, Tipton, Coffman and Lamborn to contact the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), which oversees the grant program, and point out the anti-competitive effects of EAGLE-Net's expanded mission. Spurred by the Colorado delegation, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held hearings on the matter and called for Government Accounting Office and DOC investigations.

National Media - WR Communications also reached out to national media to stimulate public awareness. A reporter from The New York Times came to Colorado to look into the story and visited impacted rural areas so he could see for himself the inefficient duplication of telecom services. The Times article ran in February 2013, highlighting the situation in Colorado and pointing out similar problems across the country caused by the same loan program.

Colorado - While the State of Colorado had little control over this federal program, local media and members of the legislature had a lot to say about it, thanks in large part to information shared by WR Communications. A Denver Post editorial on March 10, 2013, called for EAGLE-Net to "Explain the logic behind the way it has gone about high-speed Internet expansion." The Audit Committee of the Colorado Legislature sought similar information, only to be told by the company that it was "privileged and confidential."

Filling the Information Vacuum

In contrast to EAGLE-Net, CTA was more than willing to tell the story. WR Communications formed the Colorado Community Access Alliance (CCAA) at CTA to provide a communications platform from which to send out newsletters, emails, tweets and Facebook posts to keep the EAGLE-Net issue top of mind in Colorado and Washington.

Creating Transparency

EAGLE-Net finally agreed to appear before the Colorado Legislative Audit Committee in September 2013 where it revealed more about its operations and future plans. EAGLE-Net's President admitted that, "We're not aiming for underserved and rural areas. What we're aiming for is to build a network throughout the State of Colorado."

This represented a significant shift from the entity's initial mission and WR Communications helped ensure the story was picked up by print and electronic media across the state.

Not Over Yet

In a statement issued after the hearing, EAGLE-Net promised to " ... continue to provide information to the [Audit] Committee and follow up on any questions ... in keeping with state and federal transparency requirements for public projects." This highly-nuanced statement is an indication that ongoing efforts to ensure transparency by this publicly-subsidized entity very likely will be necessary.