Inspector general investigating Eagle-Net

BROOMFIELD – EAGLE-Net Alliance, the Broomfield-based Internet service provider, is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of the Inspector General, a move local congressional representatives welcomed after months of complaints about the communications company.

EAGLE-Net spokeswoman Gretchen Dirks confirmed the investigation, saying that members of the inspector general’s staff had been at EAGLE-Net’s office this week, but she declined to comment further.

As part of the federal stimulus program, in 2010 EAGLE-Net was given $100.6 million to build a high-speed network that would help ensure underserved and rural K-12 schools and libraries in Colorado would have access to the digital highway.

Critics, including U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., maintain that EAGLE-Net, or Educational Access Gateway Learning Environment Network, has wasted millions of dollars laying fiber-optics in areas that already are served and that it is competing improperly with the private sector.

“What we’re most interested in is just answers,´ said Rachel George, Gardner’s spokeswoman. “It was given a huge stimulus grant. It made a lot of promises. Now that money is gone and a lot of those promises have not been fulfilled.”

In December, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration suspended EAGLE-Net’s grant as it investigated alleged problems.

The agency lifted that suspension April 29, saying EAGLE-Net had corrected many of the deficiencies, which were related to required environmental assessments of its construction work, not any alleged overbuilding, according to the NTIA.

In its letter lifting the suspension, the NTIA said, “ENA has developed a plan for use of the remaining grant funds that focuses on western Colorado. The plan also maximizes the number of school districts connected to the network directly or through partnership with providers.”

EAGLE-Net President Michael Ryan could not be reached immediately for comment. But in a response to the NTIA posed on its web site last month, EAGLE-Net said it planned to move ahead with its network.

“With this announcement, EAGLE–Net will resume planning, permitting and construction of its statewide broadband infrastructure project immediately that will create a 21st century learning environment for K-12 Colorado public school districts,” the statement said.

George said the Committee on Energy and Commerce had been preparing a formal request for an audit when the committee became aware that the Inspector General had launched an investigation.

The Inspector General’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

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