Business
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)  

Broadband company’s demise puts taxpayers on hook for $74 million loan

Photo of Kells Hetherington
Kells Hetherington
Contributor

As the government prepares Thursday to commit billions of dollars to bring high-speed Internet to rural areas, the biggest-­ever such project has collapsed.

The company Open Range, backed by a commitment of $267 million in loans from the Agriculture Department, filed for bankruptcy this month. Taxpayers are on the hook for $74 million that the upstart hasn’t repaid. And now the company, some analysts and a senior government official are blaming poor judgment and Washington bureaucracy as the reasons Open Range failed.

The two agencies that oversaw the venture defended their roles in Open Range’s demise, saying the circumstances that led to the bankruptcy were out of their control and highly unusual.