In another twist in the Idaho Education Network broadband contract controversy, lawmakers say they were surprised by the state’s January 2013 decision to extend the contract.
The $10 million contract with Education Networks of America now runs through 2019, the Spokane Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Russell reported Tuesday.
The contract wasn’t due for renewal until 2014.
“There’s a lot of questions from the Senate and from the House as to this entire contract the way it was, before they got the five-year extension,” Rep. Jeff Thompson, an Idaho Falls Republican serving on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, told Russell.
The news of the contract renewal comes as the broadband project faces a multimillion-dollar funding crisis — precipitated by a federal contractor’s independent review of the original, 2009 Idaho Education Network contract. The review leaves the bulk of the network’s funding in limbo: “e-rate” dollars collected from cell phone and landline bills.
On Monday, JFAC approved a $6.6 million supplemental budget to keep the network afloat through June 30. Some intrigue surrounds the request: JFAC co-chair, Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, has said contractors have threatened to let the network go blank if funding isn’t approved.
Gov. Butch Otter is seeking $7.3 million for the network for 2014-15; lawmakers have not acted on the request.