News Column

Feds Suspend Broadband Upgrade

Dec. 10, 2012

Matt Hildner

Federal officials suspended a $100 million stimulus grant Thursday that was intended to improve broadband Internet access in Colorado.

Eagle-Net Alliance, the Broomfield-based intergovernmental agency and the grant's recipient, failed to properly consult with the National Telecommunications Information Administration. "NTIA has suspended the project and required Eagle-Net to stop work in order to address concerns about its adherence to environmental and cultural resource requirements," Anthony Wilhelm, an associate administrator at the administration, said in a written statement Friday.

Moreover, the administration asked that Eagle-Net show proof it had secured permits from five other federal agencies to complete work on land under their respective jurisdictions.

Eagle-Net's delivery targets stretched over much of Southern Colorado, including 47 school districts, five libraries and all four of the region's twoyear colleges.

Cody Wertz, a spokesman for Eagle-Net, said those institutions where work had been completed would not be impacted by the order.

The alliance had completed 66 percent of the network's proposed construction and spent $64.4 million from the federal grant, according to its most recent quarterly report to the federal administration.

The project raised criticism by private providers and all four of the state's Republican congressmen who said it was redundant to much of the access already offered by private providers and a waste of tax dollars.

Both groups have also said Eagle-Net had failed to consult with private providers over the location of the network.

Thursday's order by federal officials did not speak to any of those objections.

Although there is no deadline by which Eagle-Net must come into compliance, it said in a written statement it was working to resume construction as soon as possible.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Source: (c) 2012 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.)