State officials are returning $23 million to the federal government, saying there were too many strings attached
The screeching and ululation is out there. A JS "poll" on the matter shows that two-thirds of the respondents think sending the money back is the wrong thing to do.
They obviously didn't read the news story.
The money would have been used for the BadgerNet Converged Network, which brings the Internet to schools, libraries, and state and local government agencies. It would have paid for 200 miles of fiber-optic cable, improving the Internet connections at hundreds of public facilities.
BadgerNet, however, runs on infrastructure owned and managed primarily by AT&T Inc. - and that became a sticking point with federal officials who were not used to public-private partnerships, according to the state.
"We, as a state, do not own our network. We purchase a managed service through the BadgerNet contract," said Diane Kohn, acting administrator for the Division of Enterprise Technology in the Department of Administration.
Federal officials wanted a commitment that the fiber-optic cable would be used for at least 20 years, but the state's contract with AT&T is for five years.
"From a federal perspective, it was like we were some kind of unknown start-up firm with all of these risks attached to it," said Robert Bocher, an information technology consultant for the Department of Public Instruction. "In fact, our network has been around since the mid-1990s."In other words, the Feds would have required the State to build its own, proprietary, network. That would have cost a helluvalot more than $23 million.
The Madistan Ninny-Nanny Leader spins:
State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) said Walker's administration was hurting the state."Not only is he turning away construction jobs that would have come with the federal grant to expand broadband fiber to schools and libraries across Wisconsin, but he's closing off potential to business growth that comes with bridging the digital divide,"
Actually, the Fed regs also required a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) which jacked the cost of some installations by about 50% over real-world estimates.
The State's agreement with ATT is working just fine. Should there be improvements? Probably. Is the Fed "free money-with-regs" the best deal?