EAGLE-Net to resume broadband construction next month

BROOMFIELD – EAGLE-Net Alliance representatives plan to resume broadband network construction during the first week of June after the federal government lifted a five-month suspension of the quasi-governmental group’s activities.

EAGLE-Net President Michael Ryan made the announcement during an EAGLE-Net board meeting Tuesday in Broomfield. EAGLE-Net is tasked with building a high-speed broadband network to serve libraries and schools in rural and underserved areas.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), along with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), suspended EAGLE-Net’s $100.6 million in funding from the federal stimulus in December. The suspension followed concerns that EAGLE-Net built in areas not covered in an environmental assessment it submitted to the government. The federal government lifted the suspension in April.

“The NTIA and NOAA will continue to have a close watch on the project,´ said Ryan, adding that he welcomed the agencies’ oversight.

Congressional Republicans such as Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, have criticized EAGLE-Net, saying the group competes with private-sector internet service providers. The lawmakers say EAGLE-Net has laid fiber optics in areas already served by other companies, and that it has spent most of its money without fulfilling its core mission, especially on Colorado’s Western Slope.

EAGLE-Net says it has $7.8 million remaining to build broadband in 29 school districts, including schools in the San Luis Valley and Western Slope. It plans to complete the majority of the construction by August, and apply for an extension from the federal government to complete the remaining work in 2014.

EAGLE-Net has completed fiber installation in the Fort Collins, Loveland and Estes Park school districts, with plans to lay more fiber in the Greeley, Evans, Eaton and Windsor districts.

The announcement follows a visit by U.S. Office of Inspector General (OIG) officials earlier this month to EAGLE-Net’s Broomfield headquarters. The audit, conducted at six entities nationwide, is related to telecommunications equipment and when it was acquired and tested. The six entities being audited are among a group of 117 funding recipients.

EAGLE-Net representatives asked OIG officials to provide a report on the findings from the audit, EAGLE-Net Chief Operations Officer Perry Movick said.

OIG officials responded by saying, “‘When we’re ready to issue something, we’ll issue it,'” Movick said. “So we kind of don’t have a timeline.”

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