EAGLE-Net to Update Colorado on BTOP Buildout

Armed with new management partner, alliance expected to brief audit committee on status

EAGLE-Net Alliance (ENA) will be back in front of the General Assembly Legislative Audit Committee next week.

ENA back in October said it had reached a deal with broadband company Affiniti Inc., of Austin, Texas, to manage the network. Affinity will also invest up to $8 million in the network.

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

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

According to a spokesperson for the committee, ENA is expected to update the committee on its Affiniti joint venture.

At a September hearing, ENA officials defended its broadband buildout against complaints it is using government money to overbuild existing service. It also signaled that it would have a partner to manage the network by October.

Cable operators have complained that EAGLE-Net is 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.

At the September hearing, ENA officials said 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 network would include metro areas where anchor institutions chose to link up to their middle-mile network.

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 has said.