2008 — and the promise of ‘free’ broadband

Idaho Reports’ Melissa Davlin has an interesting blog post in the wake of Tuesday morning’s last-minute efforts to salvage broadband in Idaho high schools.

Davlin looked back to 2008 — and the bill to create the statewide Idaho Education Network. The attached fiscal note promised that the new network would have no impact on the state general fund.

That was then, this is now.

Last year, the Legislature appropriated $11.4 million to keep the system online through February — and replace federally administered “e-Rate” dollars that were supposed to cover the bulk of the network costs.

And on Tuesday, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee proposed spending $3.6 million to keep broadband in place through the end of the school year. (At the same time, budget-writers took back $5 million that the state Department of Administration cannot spend, since the Idaho Education Network contract has been tossed out in court.)

JFAC hasn’t even started on the 2015-16 budget. Gov. Butch Otter has requested $10.5 million to keep the system whole for the budget year that starts July 1 — thus driving up the cost of “no-cost” broadband.

More reading: Click here for a complete rundown from today’s JFAC hearing.