Idaho will be getting help to revive its troubled broadband project. Former state Senator John Goedde will be taking on an administrative role designed to find a solution with state lawmakers on broadband expansion.
In November, CivSource reported on a court ruling that voided the state’s existing broadband contract. At that time, Judge Patrick Owen said that Idaho had illegally awarded a $60 million contract to CenturyLink. According to the complaint, CenturyLink and Verizon amended the contract to cut Syringa Networks out of the deal which prompted the lawsuit.
An article in the Spokesman-Review noted that a few of the players involved are campaign contributors as well. CenturyLink has given $35,000 to Governor Butch Otter’s campaign. CenturyLink’s donations came through its political action committee – CenturyLink Idaho PAC. Syringa donated $10,000 to Otter opponents in the last two elections.
The problem for state lawmakers is that now that the original contract has been voided it will have to be re-bid. This comes as the network is already functional and operating in Idaho public schools providing distance learning to a significant number of students. If CenturyLink is no longer paid for service, the company will not have any responsibility to keep the school networks going, which could leave kids in the lurch during the middle of the school year.
Goedde will be tasked with finding a solution that appeases both lawmakers and the private companies involved in the deal. A standard re-bid process could take months to complete including a transition in service that could temporarily put local children out of school. Until a new plan is approved, the future of any network in the state remains uncertain.