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Colorado Broadband Project Attracts More Scrutiny

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On Wednesday, Colorado will be front and center in a federal congressional hearing examining whether broadband stimulus dollars have been spent effectively.

It comes on the heels of a contentious Legislative Audit Committee meeting earlier Tuesday.

Called “Is the Broadband Stimulus Working?” the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hear testimony from the Vice President of the Colorado Telecommunications Association and other guests from across the country.

At issue in Colorado is a $100 million broadband project called EAGLE-Net that’s working to connect places like schools and libraries across the state. In December 2012, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration asked EAGLE-Net to suspend construction, citing changes made to its original plan and lack of environmental and historical preservation reviews.

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Credit http://www.co-eaglenet.net/btop/map/
A screencap of past, present and future EAGLE-Net projects posted on its web site.

Rural telecom companies are complaining that EAGLE-Net installed redundant fiber optic connections, and they’re worried about losing business to the quasi-governmental entity. For its part, EAGLE-Net says it’s making every attempt to use existing infrastructure for the network build-out.

The issue sparked interest in Colorado’s Republican Congressional delegation, which wrote a letter of complaint last year.

According to a memo prepared for the hearing, the federal government allocated $7 billion in stimulus for 553 broadband grants across the country. But documents say that of the 553 projects funded, only 58 are finished or in their final stages. All projects have a Sept. 30, 2013 deadline to wrap up work.

In addition to Colorado testimony, the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will also hear about projects in Georgia and Vermont.

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