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NTIA Suspends EAGLE-Net Broadband Construction - Broadcasting & Cable

NTIA Suspends EAGLE-Net Broadband Construction

But issue is environmental studies, not overbuilds, says agency
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The National Telecommunications and Information
Administration has temporarily suspended the EAGLE-Net Alliance's broadband
build-out, to schools and libraries, which is being partially underwritten by
stimulus funding under NTIA's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program
(BTOP).

"Yesterday, EAGLE-Net Alliance (ENA) was instructed by
the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to
temporarily suspend current construction activity while we provide them
additional information about our project," the alliance said in an email.
"We take this very seriously and are working closely with the NTIA to
provide this information in order to resume construction as quickly as
possible."

But ENA suggested it was not a big deal anyway.
"Although construction has been temporarily postponed, it was already
winding down for the 2012 build schedule. Our non-construction related
operations will not be affected."

Some local telecoms had complained about being overbuilt. Broadband
providers, including many cable operators, are concerned
that the
government is underwriting overbuilds of their markets in its effort to get
broadband to every household.

But Anthony Wilhelm, who heads up the BTOP broadband
stimulus funding program, suggested the issue was overbuilding the environment,
rather than the competition.

"EAGLE-Net has made considerable progress in achieving its
objectives to construct a statewide high-speed broadband network to connect
schools and libraries across Colorado," said Wilhelm "However, NTIA
has suspended the project and required EAGLE-Net to stop work in order to
address concerns about its adherence to environmental and cultural resources
requirements," he said in a statement. "Our expectation is that ENA
will resolve these issues so that the project can quickly resume and continue
to deliver broadband benefits to communities statewide."

An NTIA source speaking on background said that the problem
was not overbuilds, but instead that it had learned that ENA was potentially
building on routes not analyzed in its environmental impact study, which was
the study on which the NTIA based its "no significant impact"
finding. As a result, NTIA asked for further clarification from ENA on those
routes, and when it did not receive an adequate response, suspended the
project.

"NTIA is committed to overseeing our programs and
helping ensure proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars," said Wilhelm.

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