Idaho $14.5 million short on bill for broadband for schools

Matthew Zalaznick's picture
Monday, February 3, 2014

There’s an unexpected $14.5 million hole in Idaho’s budget, as lawmakers are being asked to dip into state funds to make up $14.5 million in missing federal payments to a group of vendors providing broadband service to Idaho high schools.

“They’re business people, and they’re not going to do it for free,” state Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna told the Legislature’s joint budget committee on Thursday. If lawmakers don’t ante up $14.5 million in state funds, she said, the network serving all of Idaho’s high schools “will be shut down.”

Lawmakers were thunderstruck. The state has spent millions to set up the Idaho Education Network, run by Education Networks of America and CenturyLink; that included $3 million in federal stimulus funds in fiscal year 2010, two $3 million grants from the Albertson Foundation in 2011 and 2012, and roughly $3 million in state funds last year and a like amount this year.

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