Community Blog: The EDge

More about the WiFi contract: Politics, timetables, costs, etc.

The Education Department delivered a 410-page data dump Friday: the release of its high school WiFi contract, its request for proposals; and Education Networks of America’s winning bid.

The ENA’s successful, 308-page bid repeatedly touted its work on the Idaho Education Network broadband project. The bid also makes several references to the Nashville, Tenn.-based company’s connections in Idaho political circles. For more details, here’s a link to my Idaho Education News story.

And here are some more details and tidbits:

An aggressive timetable. ENA won’t be wasting any time. The Nashville, Tenn., company says it will begin “deployment planning” on Aug. 5, and site surveys on Aug. 12. Pilot testing will begin on Sept. 23. WiFi implementation will begin on Oct. 18 and will be completed on March 14, one day before the state’s deadline.

Here’s what ENA says about the schedule: “ENA’s ability to complete this project by March 15, 2014, will be limited only by the level of access allowed by the school districts to the individual sites for survey and installation activities.”

How many schools? This is a source of some confusion. Even the state’s RFP lists only 239 high schools statewide. But the contract actually covers any school with ninth- through 12th-graders; when junior high schools are factored into the equation, ENA could end up providing WiFi in as many as 333 schools.

The Education Department anticipates that “the vast majority of eligible Idaho high schools will participate in the project.”

And here’s what that could mean from a numbers standpoint: providing WiFi to serve up to 93,352 students and 7,203 teachers, administrators and staffers.

We’ll soon know how many schools actually sign on for the WiFi service; the deadline is Thursday.

The costs. ENA’s bid comes to $2,111,655 per year, on the five-year contract. But the state has the option to extend the contract, twice, bringing it to a 15-year deal.

At every five-year interval, the contractor can apply for a cost increase of up to 5 percent.

If the contract runs the full 15 years, with maximum cost increases, the contract could be worth $33,284,961.

The catch. From the RFP: “The Legislature is under no legal obligation to make appropriations to fulfill this contract.” In other words, there is no guarantee of funding beyond 2013-14. And the Education Department has the right to sever the project, in whole or in part, over funding issues.

The other bidders. We now know that nine companies submitted bids.

  • White Cloud Communications.
  • Tek-Hut Inc.
  • Presidio.
  • iSchool.
  • ID Consulting.
  • Education Networks of America (ENA)
  • Ednetics Inc.
  • Compunet.
  • Carousel Industries.

Tek-Hut, based in Twin Falls, told the Idaho Statesman that it bid $1.6 million a year on the project. Tek-Hut was one of the three finalists, according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Russell, along with Post Falls-based Ednetics Inc.

iSchool is another familiar name. Based in Park City, Utah, iSchool is providing iPads to Paul Elementary School in rural southern Idaho, in a novel classroom technology pilot.

The scoring system. Cost was just one factor, worth one-third of the overall grade. Technology was worth a third of the grade along with company qualifications and interviews.

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News (idahoednews.org). Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

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