Feds issue stop construction order against EAGLE-Net

Danner pens letter offering new framework for rural broadband success

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“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. This suspension is about satisfying all of NTIA's requests for information. To fulfill NTIA's requests, we have been and will continue to provide updated project information to finalize all compliance requirements.”

EAGLE-Net Alliance statement about the National Telecommunications & Information Administration’s stop construction order on broadband infrastructure in Colorado.

Last week the National Telecommunications & Information Administration ordered EAGLE-Net Alliance to suspend its construction activity for broadband infrastructure in Colorado.

The order came about two months after several Colorado Congressmen raised issues with NTIA about alleged over-construction of existing broadband infrastructure in some the state’s more populous areas.

The Congressmen think the alleged over-construction is a sign EAGLE-Net intends to use its infrastructure to compete with local Internet providers.

EAGLE-Net officials have dismissed those allegations, saying throughout the process they not only have no interest in competing with local Internet providers, but that doing so would be in direct violation of the $100.6 million grant it received in 2010 from the United States Department of Commerce’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.

The grant was awarded in coordination with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In a response statement last Friday EAGLE-Net said it intends to cooperate with NTIA.

“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,” the statement says. “This suspension is about satisfying all of NTIA's requests for information. To fulfill NTIA's requests, we have been and will continue to provide updated project information to finalize all compliance requirements.”

At the local level, rural broadband has been a key priority for Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner.

On Tuesday Danner asked fellow commissioners Tom Gray and Tom Mathers to endorse a letter addressed to Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, Congressman Scott Tipton, and NTIA and EAGLE-Net officials.

The letter outlines a new framework for success by utilizing local technology planning teams to assist EAGLE-Net in building partnerships and professional alliances with local Internet providers in un-served and underserved rural Colorado communities.

“My personal experience serving on the broadband team here and in the region, and at the state level with Gov. (John Hickenlooper’s) committee, is that EAGLE-Net has over-promised, but is still working to deliver on those promises,” Danner said. “In other parts of the state there have been claims of overbuilding, we do not have that here, and we have been working very carefully with them and CenturyLink, and all of our Internet service providers, to ensure that our region has technology and infrastructure that will take us into the next century.”

The commission approved Danner’s letter, 3-0.

EAGLE-Net received the $100.6 million grant to identify and provide “middle mile” broadband Internet infrastructure to more than 170 Colorado communities, specifically to rural communities around the state.

Craig was identified as one of those 170 communities.

The grant also is intended to identify government and educational entities to receive fiber optic cable and serve as anchor institutions.

Those anchor institutions would be a hub for local Internet providers to build “last mile” infrastructure to homes and businesses.

EAGLE-Net would continue to be the service provider for those government and educational institutions, but would not be permitted to set up last mile operations to compete with local providers, according to the stipulations of the grant.

EAGLE-Net was on pace to meet its goal of providing that infrastructure to all of its identified communities by Aug. 2013.

“Although construction has been temporarily postponed, it was already winding down for the 2012 build schedule,” the EAGLE-Net statement says. “Our current customers and community anchor institutions will not be impacted.

“EAGLE-Net is working diligently to get construction started as soon as possible.”

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com

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