EAGLE-Net Alliance Defends Colorado Broadband Buildout

WASHINGTON — At a Colorado General Assembly Legislative Audit Committee hearing Sept. 25, EAGLE-Net Alliance (ENA) officials defended its broadband buildout against complaints it is using government money to overbuild existing service.

They told the committee that they were simply using the National Telecommunications & Information Association definition of unserved and underserved, and by that reckoning, there were 10 underserved districts and two unserved districts.

They said their aim was to serve the unserved and underserved by creating a statewide network that, in the process, would reach those people and others.

Officials conceded the EAGLE-Net network would include metro areas where anchor institutions chose to link up to their middle-mile network.

Cable operators have complained that EAGLE-Net was using government money to overbuild their systems and claimed the consortium had not been cooperative with local telecoms. ENA officials said they had struck deals with outside parties, which left the groups that did not get those deals complaining.

ENA is building out a statewide educational broadband network, via a $100.6 million grant under the Obama administration’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).

The buildout has run into delays and problems and has had a $17 million loan capped at the current withdrawal of slightly more than $600,000.

Asked how ENA will pay for continuing operations without the loan, representatives at the hearing said that some of that would come from BTOP funding. While that funding is primarily for network buildout, ENA pointed out that a limited amount can be used for operations.

ENA said that by the end of this month, it should have a deal with a network services provider in place. By the end of 2014, when its grant expires — it has been extended for one year after it was suspended for part of this year — EAGLE-Net will have built out to about 86% of the state’s school districts, ENA said.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.