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Wednesday, October 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Idaho schools arrange stopgap broadband service

BOISE – After a mad scramble over the past week, all of Idaho’s school districts have secured broadband service to replace the defunct Idaho Education Network.

“We’ve been very proactive and districts have been very proactive in this,” state Department of Education Technology Director Will Goodman told a legislative committee Friday morning.

At that point, only one district still hadn’t arranged for a new source of broadband service; by the end of the day, all had.

Idaho’s $60 million contract with two politically connected vendors for the network was ruled illegal by a court, prompting it to shut down this week. The service linked high schools with high-speed Internet and videoconferencing. The state is out millions over the contract debacle, including replacing federal funds that were supposed to cover three-quarters of the cost of the service but were cut off in 2013 because of legal questions about the  contract award.

Lawmakers tasked the state Department of Education with overseeing the stopgap measures, rather than the Department of Administration, which oversaw the original contract. The department held daily calls and webinars with districts last week, and offered technical assistance to those who needed it.

Gov. Butch Otter signed into law the $3.6 million stopgap funding bill for school broadband earlier in the week. Goodman said starting on Monday, every district that was part of the Idaho Education Network will get $2,000 to cover upfront costs for equipment purchases. Then, districts will file for reimbursement for their full costs.

“Thanks to the work of this committee and the work of the Legislature, the state Department of Education and districts have been able to basically weather the storm,” Goodman said. “We believe that next week … potentially every district will be up live.”

Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, called it “a pretty impressive scramble that has had to happen.” Goodman said he mobilized the department’s entire technology staff to work on the issue.

“You have done an excellent job of jumping into this,” said Sen. Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello.

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