Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Update on DOA BadgerNet Fiber Grant

The BadgerNet Advisory Council provides the following update on the four main activities related to the BadgerNet fiber grant.  These  activities are:  (1) Federal interest in long-term use of the fiber; (2) BadgerNet contract extension; (3) Environmental Assessment;  (4) Finalizing the list of participating schools and libraries and the project’s budget.  All four of these activities must reach a final resolution before the project can move forward.

(1) Federal interest in long-term use of the fiber.  The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA, the  grant agency) is understandably concerned that the $23 million in federal funding will have a long-term impact.  The primary way to ensure this is to make certain that the schools and libraries can access the fiber for many years into the future.  Attorneys from DOA, NTIA and the Wisconsin BadgerNet Access Alliance (WBAA) are working now to address this issue.  (The DOA’s request that this condition be waived was denied by NTIA.)

(2) BadgerNet contract extension.  The current State contract with the WBAA consortium expires in November 2011, but the contract also has a provision for five one-year extensions -- to November 2016.  AT&T staff (representing WBAA) and DOA administrators are meeting on a regular basis to resolve several outstanding issues on a contract extension. 

(3) Environmental Assessment.   One of the federal conditions placed on funding the grant is that DOA needs to have an approved Environmental Assessment done for all 467 locations scheduled to receive fiber.  Work on the EA is now underway with a target completion date of mid-October.  Once completed, the information will then be sent to NTIA for review and approval.  Assuming there are no major issues, approval is expected by mid-November.

(4) Finalizing participation and project budget. DOA staff continue to work on finalizing the budget and finalizing the list of participants. It is expected that this work will be done in October.

In light of the above information, an obvious question is:  What is the time frame for fiber installation and bandwidth increases?  The approximate target date to get the first three above activities completed is mid-November.  After the three tasks are done the WBAA will prepare a new set of work-plans based upon the season and taking into account work that requires trenching and work that does not.  We will share this work-plan with you as soon as it is published.

What does all this mean for a the 2011 E-rate application cycle?  The DPI recommends that schools/libraries now on BadgerNet wait until at least mid-November before making any E-rate decisions related to bandwidth increases, new router requests, etc.  This assumes the 2011 E-rate application time frame will be the same as in past years.

The Advisory Council will post out more updates as more information becomes available.

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