More money sought for broadband project

(UPDATED, 9:27 a.m., Sept. 15, with news of FCC subpoena.)

With funding still in limbo, the 2015 Legislature may have to decide whether to fork over another $2.4 million to keep broadband in Idaho schools.

The Idaho Education Network will request the money, enough to keep the system online through June, network spokeswoman Camille Wells told the Idaho Statesman.

Funding the Idaho Education Network became one of the big budget surprises of the 2014 legislative session. Lawmakers were informed, in the middle of the session, that the network’s federally administered funding had been on hold since early 2013. The Legislature came up with $11.4 million — enough to keep the network online through February, while affording the 2015 Legislature a chance to take another look at the situation.

Barring a change, lawmakers will come back to an unresolved funding mess. The Universal Service Administrative Company is still withholding funding for the Idaho Education Network, while it reviews the network’s 2009 contract.

In limbo, still, are “e-rate” funds collected from landline and cell phone bills. Normally, “e-rate” had covered three-fourths of the Idaho Education Network’s budget, until USAC    launched its contract review.

That review continues, the Statesman reported Friday.

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In another development, the Federal Communications Commission has joined in the investigation, issuing a subpoena for state documents on the broadband contract.

The Statesman’s Cynthia Sewell first reported on the subpoena Saturday.

It’s unclear whether the FCC is conducting its own investigation or exercising its subpoena power on USAC’s behalf, said Merlyn Clark, an attorney representing the state in the investigation.

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