Idaho public schools are going to be on their own for broadband access after the end of this month. Lawmakers were unable to come to a solution for funding the network longer than the initial batch of temporary funding already in place. The state’s school broadband network will go dark on February 22.
School officials will have to figure out what to do for broadband after next Sunday and potentially through the next year, according to Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill.
This is the latest development in a rushed effort to keep the network afloat since a judge voided Idaho’s contract with CenturyLink in November saying the contract was awarded illegally. CenturyLink says it is also owed an additional $4.2 million in backpay for maintaining the network through this point. As CivSource reported last week the network provides broadband access in public schools for distance learning and standardized testing among other things, and without connectivity stands to lose over $200 million in additional federal funding tied into the No Child Left Behind program.
On Tuesday, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee is scheduled to vote on a plan that will keep broadband functioning. However, that vote will not include another round of temporary funding or will it provide funding to schools to pay for broadband themselves.
According to a piece in the Spokesman Review the attorney general advised the state to make a clean break from the CenturyLink network in “every sense of the word” which is the reason for a lack in additional funding. However, without a plan, education funding also becomes a significant problem for state lawmakers, and e-rate funding for the network provided by the federal government will be cut off.
Idaho’s CTO has said that his office will help any districts that seek counsel on how to apply for e-rate funds for next year.