WiFi deal: Several bidders had Idaho ties

Twin Falls-based Tek-Hut Inc., interspersed its application with glowing testimonials from school officials from Pocatello, Kuna, Kimberly and other Idaho districts.

Post Falls-based Ednetics Inc. played up its storyline as a 16-year-old Idaho startup. “Our first official offices (not counting dorm rooms or apartments) were at the University of Idaho Research Park and the University of Idaho incubator.”

In the competition for Idaho’s high school WiFi contract, these contenders both played up their Idaho track record — even though, ultimately, a review committee was assigned to select a vendor based on cost, technology and company experience.

The state Education Department released copies of the contractors’ proposals and cost estimates Thursday afternoon, 15 days after the state awarded the multiyear, multimillion dollar contract to Education Networks of America, a Nashville, Tenn.-based company with considerable professional and political connections in Idaho.

Idaho Education News had requested the documents under the state public records law.

The state has been gradually releasing paperwork on the controversial contract over the past two weeks. ENA’s proposal has been posted on the Education Department’s website since July 26, two days after the company received the contract.

And the cost estimates aren’t new either; the Education Department provided “scoring documents” that showed how a nine-member review committee graded the bidders. Those documents spelled out the vast discrepancies in cost estimates among the 10 bids; four bids came in below ENA’s one-year price tag of $2.11 million, and five-year costs of  $10.56 million.

But the proposals also flesh out some of the companies’ experience, in Idaho and elsewhere.

Tek-Hut said it has worked with 150 school districts across the country, including 71 in Idaho. “To date Tek-Hut, Inc. has helped 35 districts in the state of Idaho deploy wireless and looks forward to the opportunity of leveraging that experience,” Tek-Hut said in its proposal.

Ednetics’ proposal also was supplemented with letters of recommendation from several Idaho school districts where the company has worked on contracts, including Moscow, Lewiston, McCall-Donnelly and Plummer-Worley.

In its winning proposal, ENA also played up its Idaho ties — namely its four-year-old contract on the Idaho Education Network, a project to install broadband in Idaho high schools. The proposal also pointed out, sometimes less than subtly, the company’s political connections in Idaho Republican circles. (Click here for our previous report on the ENA proposal.)

Ultimately, the review committee ended up interviewing only three bidders: ENA, Tek-Hut and Ednetics.

But the group of nine suitors included several other companies with headquarters or beachheads in Idaho: CompuNet Inc. of Meridian; ID Consulting Solutions LLC, based in Boise; White Cloud Communications, based in Twin Falls;  and Presidio Networked Solutions Inc., a national company with a regional office in Boise.