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Sharon Fisher

Idaho Applies For Broadband Stimulus Funds

Following up on its statement from the first round of broadband stimulus funding, Idaho's Department of Administration has filed an application for more than $6 million in federal funding to help develop the Idaho Education Network (IEN). According to the application, the money will be used for 24 "anchor sites" in 15 rural communities, but the summary form of the application printed in the directory did not specify where these sites or communities were, but said that it would make broadband available to 5887 unserved households. The wording is crucial.

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Qwest Asks for $350 Million in Broadband Stimulus Funding

After sitting out the first round of broadband stimulus funding, US West (Qwest) has roared back for round 2, asking for $350 million from the federal government for a $467 million project that spans its 14-state coverage area. In its application, which is not yet available on the database, Qwest proposes to build facilities to serve more than half a million homes, schools, businesses and hospitals with broadband Internet services supporting download speeds of 12 to 40 Mbps. Whether Qwest gets the grant is another question. The largest grant awarded in the first round was $126 million, according to an article in Network World.

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In a Flurry of Activity, Idaho Legislature Adjourns Sine Die

Amidst a flurry of activity and a couple of more than ten-hour days, the Idaho Legislature has adjourned sine die, with a few interesting developments and surprises in its last few hours, as well as a whole pile of Strongly Worded Letters to send to the Federal government. Factors speeding the Legislature on their way included it being an election year, the economy inducing them not to spend the $30,000 each legislative day costs, the urgency to get out of town before March tax revenue figures came in and possibly required yet another cut to the 2010 budget, and, perhaps, the desire to be out of session before April Fool's Day.

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Idaho Committee Approves IEN Funding

Despite concern about how funding was being spent to develop network infrastructure for the Idaho Education Network -- to the extent that a quarterly status report is now required, delineating how and where funds were being spent -- in the end, money talked: Idaho's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee voted today to give $3 million in spending authority to the Department of Administration, based on a two-year grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson education foundation. Despite concern about how funding was being spent to develop network infrastructure for the Idaho Education Network -- to the extent that a quarterly status report is now required, delineating how and where funds were being spent -- in the end, money talked: Idaho's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee voted today to give $3 million in spending authority to the Department of Administration, based on a two-year grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson education foundation. Both Representatives Shirley Ringo (D-Moscow), who made the motion, and Fred Wood (R-Burley) conceded that the source of the funding was part of their decision. "If this were general fund money, we might be having a different discussion," she said. For the state to turn down such private sources of funding, or even to put conditions on it, would not be appropriate, he said.

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Another Episode of Damn Lies and Statistics

We get it all the time, by phone, paper, or online. "Would you like to take a survey?" Then, through the magic of statistics, we learn all sorts of amazing things. Not so fast. As Mark Twain (or Disraeli, depending on which Internet quote engine you use) once said, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics. And it doesn't take a lot of learning about surveys to realize how often and how easily statistics can be misused.

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Contract For School Technology Could Delay Adjournment of Idaho’s Legislature

Failure of mediation between the Idaho Department of Administration and Syringa Networks regarding the development of the Idaho Education Network (IEN) could mean that the Idaho Legislature may not be able to adjourn as planned by next Friday. One of the few remaining tasks for the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) was to provide $3 million in spending authority for the IEN based on a two-year grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson education foundation. The budget for the IEN was supposed to be set a week ago, but was held off at the request of Legislative leadership until mediation was held yesterday in hopes that the Syringa lawsuit could be settled first. "It concluded last evening around 8:00 without success," said Ken McClure, of Givens-Pursley, legal counsel for Syringa.

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Idaho ISPs: Legislature’s Plan Could Quintuple Costs to Schools. Will Qwest Benefit?

Idaho Internet service providers (ISPs) say that the way that the Idaho Education Network (IEN) is being set up could end up costing schools up to five times what they currently pay to connect to the Internet -- ongoing annual costs that would have to be borne by the general fund after a $3 million two-year grant runs out. The ISPs also deny Department of Administration charges that they are coming in after the fact and trying to change the process, saying it was always intended for them to provide the "last mile" between a Qwest-built backbone and schools, and that it is Qwest that is changing the process by building expensive new connections when adequate connections already exist -- and risking putting local companies out of business in the process.

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Labrador Becomes First Latino to Preside Over Idaho House

Continuing a process begun with Representative Margaret Henbest, D-Boise, in 2008 of inviting retiring members of the Idaho House to serve as Speaker for part of the day's session, Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, handed the gavel to Representative Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, who is leaving the House to run for Congress. And in keeping with other "firsts," such as Henbest's first woman speaker, as well as being a Democrat presiding over the largely Republican House -- and Representative George Sayler's, D-Coeur d'Alene, turn on Monday as the first Speaker from Kootenai County -- Labrador may have been the first Latino to preside over the chamber. Naturally, House members treated Labrador with all the deference due the Speaker. Mostly.

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Idaho State Affairs Committee Passes ‘Conscience’ Bill

After two days of testimony, mostly in opposition, Idaho's House State Affairs Committee voted to pass this year's version of the "conscience" bill, which lets medical professionals such as nurses and pharmacists refuse to perform medical actions or fill prescriptions that could cause an abortion -- as well as emergency contraception -- or hasten the end of life. The bill has already passed the Senate. This year's bill is different from last year's in several ways, such as the inclusion of the end-of-life component, which brought in other opponents such as AARP and, perhaps, made debating and voting against the bill more palatable to legislators who would not otherwise want to be perceived as being pro-abortion. In addition was the fact that the bill went through the State Affairs committees in both houses -- reportedly not only because the State Affairs committees are thought to be more conservative, but because of the perception that Health & Welfare committees -- each headed by women -- would be less receptive to the bill, especially after chair Senator Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, held the bill in her committee last year. Lending credence to this argument, voting on the bill was split not only along partisan lines but also among gender lines: All three votes on the bill featured Republican men on one side and Democratic women on the other.

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Idaho Awarded Broadband Stimulus Grant

A single project in Idaho has finally been awarded a grant from the federal government intended to improve broadband Internet access in rural areas. According to a press release, the Coeur d'Alene Tribe Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Project has been awarded $6,142,879 in loans and $6,142,879 in grants to provide a FTTH broadband system offering broadband services to anchor institutions, critical community facilities, and approximately 3,770 unserved and underserved households in the communities of Plummer, Worley, Tensed, and DeSmet, as well as isolated farms and rural home sites on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation in North Idaho. Three other Idaho projects could still be awarded funds.

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