Idaho lawmakers have agreed to make $6.6 million in back payments to keep high-speed Internet access in high schools through the end of the school year.
A state budget committee unanimously voted this week to provide funding to the Tenn.-based telecommunications contractor Education Networks of America, according to the Spokesman-Review. The money will take the place of payments from E-rate funding, which were halted a year ago amid a legal dispute.
The Idaho Department of Administration has asked state lawmakers to approve a larger amount of funding, $14.5 million, to cover the costs of the broadband network contract through the end of next school year. Lawmakers have not yet decided whether or not to pay the remaining amount not covered by the $6.6 million.
That initial payment would keep 90,000 students connected through the Idaho Education Network, the system that provides Web access as well as video-conferencing and distance-learning courses.
The funding shortfall can be traced to a decision by the FCC, which oversees the E-rate program, to stop funding for Idaho's Web services until an ongoing lawsuit was resolved. The Idaho Supreme Court is hearing a case alleging that state officials violated purchasing rules by amending the broadband network contract to favor one company over another.
The FCC has not said when it would release the funds, leaving officials scrambling for a solution that would ensure that the network stays in place this school year and next.
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