Over the summer, CivSource reported on some troubling developments with Idaho’s failed broadband network for local schools. The contract to build the network was voided in 2014, leaving schools to find their own broadband access providers during the current school year. Since then, two separate groups within the Idaho statehouse have been working to reform contracting rules and find a solution for public schools.
Examination of the original contract showed that there were improper processes that led to the contract being voided. Companies involved were also contributors to Governor Otter’s political campaign. Over the summer, a letter obtained by the Associated Press showed that the Governor also knew that federal funding for the network would end without a plan but didn’t immediately tell state officials.
For the current school year, schools have been negotiating their own broadband contracts with some funding from the state. That plan looks likely to continue. At the end of November, lawmakers agreed that reviving the old network through a re-bidding process wasn’t the best option for state schools. Instead, schools will continue to negotiate their own contracts and may qualify for federal funds on their own.
New reports emerging today from local news station KTVB 7 suggest that so far when schools have been able to negotiate their own contracts the savings is significant.
“The contract before the state had with ENA was for over $6,000 a month and through our local company here we’re getting it for $100 a month,” said Fruitland School Superintendent Teresa Fabricius in an interview with the TV station.
In terms of fixing the procurement rules, Idaho lawmakers have nearly finished draft proposals for reform that will be presented to the legislature in the 2016 session.