Thursday, February 25, 2010

Federal Government Gives Idaho Hopefuls Two Thumbs Down

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 4:20 PM

The Panhandle Area Council's proposal for a fiber optic network was rejected by the Rural Utilities Service, according to project manager Ernie Bray. He's anxious to make adjustments and reapply for round two, but there's a huge problem: The deadline for round two is Monday, March 15, and he doesn't know why RUS denied the application.

"The problem is, we got an e-mail saying we were rejected. We've been in phase two due diligence for weeks and gotten no word," he said. "Just all of a sudden, nope, you're rejected. But we don't have a letter yet."

Bray is frustrated because he knows the two federal government agencies responsible for awarding and distributing broadband stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are going to be getting stronger applications because of more clear priorities for round two. But he doesn't know what RUS didn't like about his round one materials.

"You're thrown out on your ear two weeks before the new deadline, and they still haven't given us the reason," he said. "Plus a lot of stakeholders only meet once a month. How can you make your second application better? You can't."

City of Ammon IT director Bruce Patterson told BW that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration denied its application, as well.

"We intend to revise it and try and comply with the second round priorities and resubmit," he said.

Mary DeWalt, director of Ada Community Library is not planning to reapply for public computer center funds after also receiving a rejection letter from NTIA.

"We'll still have public access computers in the new [Lake Hazel] branch," she wrote in an e-mail. "Just not as many and no special equipment or formal instruction setting, unless we can find another way."

DeWalt previously asked BW to clarify for the record that no one helped the library prepare its application. In a Feb. 10 news feature, I wrote, "According to a loud chorus of applicants, Rep. Walt Minnick's office took the lead in helping the Idaho dozen prepare applications."

However, DeWalt agreed that the Congressional staff was good about communicating information about the process.

While the Utah Education Network was awarded $13 million this week, BW was not able to confirm that any of the 12 Idaho-based applications had been funded. All notifications from the two agencies are expected to be made by Monday, March 1.

BW has been working with RUS to secure an interview with Chairman Jonathan Adelstein. Look for updates on citydesk as the story progresses.

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