The Legislature’s Broadband Access Study Committee has convened at the Capitol this morning, and started with a review of the array of motions that passed at the group’s last meeting, led by a unanimous vote to “move away from anything that mirrored the previous statewide system,” the Idaho Education Network. Instead, the panel backed making resources available to school districts to secure broadband service, with help from the state level on contracting and e-rate funding applications. It also called for including libraries, juvenile corrections educational programs, and deaf and blind education services in the program; and called for repealing the statutes that set up the IEN, which went dark last year after a judge ruled the initial contract award for the $60 million program was issued illegally.
“Early on in that meeting, it was decided that that meeting would focus solely on the educational needs,” said Will Goodman, who is serving as the facilitator for the panel, “before focusing on other groups like state agencies and economic development.”
Co-Chair Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, said, “We made some pretty good progress, in my opinion.”
Goodman said a couple of points with regard to schools still remain to be decided: How funding would be distributed to school districts after next year, through what mechanism, and who will oversee that. The panel already has voted to continue the current program for next year, with the state Department of Education overseeing the distribution of funds to school districts.
The committee is now looking at HB 315 from last year, a bill proposed by panel co-chair Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, that was introduced but didn't advance, for oversight of school broadband services. There’s also another proposal from the Idaho Education Technology Association; both deal with funding and oversight. You can listen live here.