Local broadband contracts should save state $1.3 million

The state should wind up saving close to $1.3 million on short-term high school broadband contracts, according to numbers released by the State Department of Education Tuesday.

The short-term contracts — signed by school districts in the past couple of weeks — carry a projected price tag of slightly less than $2 million. Over that same time period, the defunct Idaho Education Network broadband system would have cost the state more than $3.2 million.

The State Department of Education released full numbers on the contracts Tuesday afternoon — one day after districts and charter schools had to submit paperwork on their broadband contracts.

District Judge Patrick Owen voided the Idaho Education Network contract, causing the system to go dark and forcing districts to scramble to sign contracts to keep high-speed Internet in their high schools through the remainder of the school year.

The Legislature also scrambled to approve a $3.6 million bailout bill, allowing the State Department of Education to reimburse districts for their short-term broadband contracts.

Based on the newest numbers, this $3.6 million will cover these local contracts with ample money to spare. The total costs, $1.96 million, include more than $1.1 million in one-time costs.

The latest news of cost savings comes as little surprise.

On Monday, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee voted to stick with the local contracts for 2015-16 — and give the State Department of Education $6.3 million to cover these contracts. JFAC based this idea, and this $6.3 million appropriation, on initial reports from a majority of districts and charters, which found significant savings from the local contracts.

The spreadsheet also provides other details about the contracts:

  • In all, 76 of the state’s 129 districts and charters will save state dollars with their new contracts. Cost savings vary widely, but the Lake Pend Oreille School District switched to local Internet provider Ednetics, and will likely save more than $70,500 for enhanced broadband capacity.
  • For 31 districts and charters, costs will go up. The Culdesac School District will wind up paying an additional 10 cents on its renewed contract with Education Networks of America, the lead contractor on the Idaho Education Network project. The Bonneville School District switched to a City of Ammon-Syringa Networks consortium, and will pay nearly $22,000 for increased bandwidth.
  • ENA secured short-term contracts with 60 districts and charter high schools. Syringa, the Boise company that successfully sued to toss the Idaho Education Network, received work with seven districts.
  • Fifty-five districts and charters were able to secure more bandwidth under their new contracts. The Jefferson County Joint District, for example, saw its broadband capacity increase from 84 megabits per second to 20,000 Mbps.
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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