Broadband

Madelyn Beck / Mountain West New Bureau

As so many telecommuters, teachers, college students and children work and learn from home, there have been fears that the Internet wouldn't be up to the task. But so far, it seems to be largely coping with the increased traffic.


New Report Spotlights The Rural West’s Connectivity Gap 

A report published this week by the National Association of Counties found that more than 75% of rural counties had internet and cellular connections that fell well below minimum government standards. The problem is especially acute in the Mountain West. For the most part, only wealthy enclaves like Jackson, Wyoming, have good broadband, the study’s connectivity maps show.

Lambert/Getty Images

The Federal Communications Commission is re-aligning over-the-air TV signals to make room for more broadband services. Idaho Matters discusses this with an FCC official.

Boise State Public Radio

Two internet companies are asking a federal judge to block Attorney General Lawrence Wasden from forcing them to return millions of dollars paid under a canceled state broadband contract.

Education Networks of America Inc. and CenturyLink Communications LLC first filed their lawsuits in federal court in August, where they argued that the state owed them more than $37 million in back payments and damages.

Idaho Ed News

The state does not owe back payments to vendors on the defunct Idaho Education Network project, according to Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

And Wasden says the vendors — Education Networks of America and CenturyLink — must return the millions of dollars they received for the mothballed broadband project.

Idaho Education News

Idaho school districts could be out close to $2 million, as a result of the latest Idaho Education Network budget snafu.

Fifty-seven of Idaho’s 115 school districts now stand to lose out on “e-Rate” money — federally administered dollars collected from landline and cell phone bills. The districts were counting on the e-Rate dollars to cover a share of their technology costs on a host of projects.

Idaho Education News

The state has received another round of bad budget news stemming from the defunct Idaho Education Network project.

But it’s not immediately clear how big the problem is this time, and what it could mean for schools across the state.

internet, computer, broadband,
Sean MacEntee / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho officials originally agreed to pay $7.2 million in a settlement over an illegal statewide contract that provided broadband in public schools.

However, a March ruling from the Idaho Supreme Court halted settlement talks after justices upheld a lower court's ruling deeming the $60 million contract was illegal. The surprise ruling came down in the final days of the settlement being finalized.

internet, computer, broadband,
Sean MacEntee / Flickr Creative Commons

State budget writers have signed off on a surprise $8 million request from top legislative leaders to pay for a possible settlement in Idaho's losing legal battle over an illegal statewide contract for broadband in public schools.

The Joint Finance Appropriations Committee voted 19-1 on Tuesday to approve the request of House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill.

Earlier this month, the Idaho Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling voiding the $60 million statewide contract in a drawn-out legal process.

Idaho Education News

The state has been negotiating with two Idaho Education Network vendors since October — in hopes of settling more than $6 million in legal claims.

But when the state absorbed another resounding defeat in court Tuesday, the negotiations got derailed.

“Right now we’re in a little bit of a cooling-off period,” Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill told Idaho Education News Thursday. “People want to go back to their own corner.”

Boise State Public Radio

The Idaho Supreme Court sided with a district judge Tuesday, voiding the contract for the Idaho Education Network broadband project.

The court’s unanimous ruling could have $25 million worth of implications for the state — and its taxpayers. Idaho could be forced to write off or give back federally administered fees that were supposed to offset the costs of the high school Internet system.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Strengthening Idaho's system for purchasing goods and services comes down to careful training, good research, picking the right providers and following the law, some state employees told a group of lawmakers on Thursday.

The legislative interim committee is digging into Idaho's contracting system in the wake of several scandals, including an illegally awarded $60 million school broadband contract that was voided by a judge earlier this year.

Idaho Education News

Lawmakers received $5 million worth of good news Tuesday morning. The state’s bill for school broadband could come in well below budget.

One reason for the savings: School districts have been able to tap into federally administered dollars that had been cut off during the Idaho Education Network broadband contract dispute.

More questions than answers hang around Idaho lawmakers grappling over the now defunct statewide school broadband access program.

A legislative interim committee met Tuesday to begin determining whether the Idaho Legislature should attempt a new statewide broadband program.

Idaho's broadband program dissolved earlier this year after a district judge ruled the $60 million contract that created the system was illegal. This left individual school districts scrambling to secure their own broadband access contracts for the upcoming school year.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

State officials have not responded to demands for millions of dollars in back payments from contractors hired under the recently dissolved statewide broadband system.

This means the contractors now have clearance to file a lawsuit.

Idaho Deputy Attorney General Scott Zanzig says the state has not issued a formal response to the tort claims filed back in early March.

The state had 90 days to respond.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has selected former state Sen. Bob Geddes as the new director of the Department of Administration.

Otter announced the appointment on Wednesday.

Geddes is currently a registered lobbyist for Monsanto and the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation. Prior to that, he served one year as chairman of the Idaho State Tax Commission and nine terms as a state Republican senator from eastern Idaho.

Teresa Luna, a key figure in the Idaho Education Network broadband contract mess, has a new job as a state emergency planner.

Luna began the job with the state Bureau of Homeland Security Monday.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Former Idaho Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna has taken a new position as an emergency planner with the state's Bureau of Homeland Security.

The agency announced the hire Tuesday.

Agency Director Brad Richy says Luna has the needed expertise of state agency coordination and understanding of state, county and local government in Idaho.

capitol, statehouse, idaho
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Lawmakers may be done setting the state budget and passing laws, but they'll continue to work on reviewing hot button issues varying from multi-million contracts, school broadband access and public defense reform.

Legislative leaders approved the 2015 interim committees on Tuesday. The panels will meet over the summer and provide recommendations to lawmakers during next year's legislative session.

This included appointing members to a new committee to review Idaho's bidding and selection process of the state's most expensive contracts.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has announced that Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna will resign following the end of the legislative session.

In a statement released Tuesday, Otter said an interim director will be appointed.

The governor did not state the reason for Luna's resignation.

internet, computer, broadband,
Sean MacEntee / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho school districts are saving the state millions of dollars after being forced to negotiate their own broadband services to replace a state contract deemed illegal earlier this year.

State budget writers approved allocating $6.3 million on Monday to fund school broadband services for one more year.

The amount is based on data provided to the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee showing that most schools have negotiated their own contracts at much lower rates than the state did when it was in charge of the now obsolete Idaho Education Network.

Contractors have received $29.7 million under the voided Idaho Education Network contract.

Should the state try to get this money back?

It’s one of the many legal issues surrounding the defunct statewide broadband system. And it’s one many state officials don’t want to talk about.

Data: Idaho Education News

Repeatedly — both before and after his election to a third term — Gov. Butch Otter’s praise for Idaho’s high school broadband system has focused on access.

The Idaho Education Network brings more classes into rural schools, he says, bringing the state that much closer to meeting its constitutional mandate to provide a uniform system of free public schools.

The state’s own numbers tell a very different story:

Keyboard, computer, tech
newfilm.dk / Flickr Creative Commons

A new audit shows slightly more than half of the schools surveyed aren't using the equipment purchased through Idaho's pricey broadband contract and nearly 6 percent of the videoconferencing equipment can't be located.

Legislative auditors told budget writers Thursday that use of the Idaho Education Network, a program that provides broadband access to Idaho public schools, has declined since it first began in 2012.

State Sen. Dean Cameron says the report raises concerns for the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee as it considers funding the program for another year.

internet, computer, broadband,
Sean MacEntee / Flickr Creative Commons

The state has outlined its timetable to rebid the Idaho Education Network broadband contract — and Idaho will likely have to go it alone on project funding at least until July 1, 2016.

The state Department of Administration won’t accept bids on the new contract until June, and that’s well past the deadline for the state (or school districts) to apply for federally administered “e-Rate” funds for 2015-16.

Here’s how the two timetables mesh:

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