Broadband: New numbers reflect poorly on old network contract

We don’t have the whole picture yet — all 129 short-term broadband contracts, secured by school districts and charter schools across the state.

But Monday morning, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee was handed a considerable snapshot. A three-page spreadsheet summarizes 93 of the short-term contracts — showing where the districts are getting their broadband, how much it’s costing the state and how much bandwidth the state is getting for its money.

The raw numbers reflect poorly on the Idaho Education Network — and the notion of a statewide contract providing the state economies of scale. On Monday, JFAC recommended keeping the short-term local contracts in place through June 2016 — with the state reimbursing the districts’ costs.

The skinny from Monday’s report:

  • On Dec. 31 — before the Idaho Education Network contract was thrown out in court — the state paid $487,034 a month to provide high-speed Internet to these 93 districts and charters. The 93 districts and charters are paying $381,931 a month, a 21.6 percent savings.
  • Moreover, the districts are getting more bandwidth for less money — $43.96 per megabit per second, a 45.6 percent discount from the defunct Idaho Education Network contract.

Now, to dive deeper, here are a few more highlights:

Sticking with the status quo. Fifty-three of the 93 districts and charters opted to stay with Education Networks of America, the lead contractor on the Idaho Education Network.

Cost variations on the ENA contracts. Costs for most of the short-term contracts with ENA appear to mirror the monthly costs on the old Idaho Education Network contract. In other words, it won’t cost the state and more, or any less, to reimburse the districts to stay with the ENA.

Costs will go up in some districts. In Bruneau-Grand View, for example, 30 Mbps of bandwidth will now cost $13,622 per month; under the Idaho Education Network contract, service in Bruneau-Grand View had cost $4,925 per month, plus $3,684 in one-time amortized costs. Districts such as Bruneau-Grand View aren’t going to be out any money. As long as their broadband service is unchanged, they’ll still get reimbursed by the state.

One school — Gooding’s Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind — will see a cost reduction, from $4,385 per month to $3,898.

Saving and switching. Among the districts that are saving money by switching Internet providers, the Post Falls school district is an extreme example. The district will now receive 1,000 Mbps from Ednetics, a local provider, for $4,000 a month. The district had received 95 Mbps from the Idaho Education Network, for $12,245 per month. The district’s cost per Mbps will drop by 96.9 percent.

The cheapest contract. That’s the Fruitland School District. Their new contract with Farmers Mutual Telephone Co. will run $100 in monthly costs. Fruitland’s old Idaho Education Network contract cost $6,788 per month.

The costliest contract. That’s the Teton School District, which is sticking with ENA at a cost of $19,391 per month.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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