No Free High Speed Internet for Louisiana Schools
Despite detailed assurances from top state officials, an offer to set up a no-cost, high speed Louisiana internet network for cash-strapped public schools across Louisiana died recently amid conflicting claims on the merits of the plan.
The state Board of Regents, with support from Gov. John Bel Edwards, made the offer to district superintendents and later provided point-by-point rebuttals to concerns raised by wary educators and their lawyers.
What did essentially kill the deal for most superintendents was a sharp critique of the plan a few weeks later by a Baton Rouge-based law firm. It concluded that superintendents should reject the offer.
“Due to the lack of information, it is our recommendation that the agreement not be executed,” according a three-page letter from the Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice law firm.
The letter questioned the value of assurances offered by the Board of Regents; said accepting the offer could prohibit districts from filing future e-rate requests with the FCC; and once the network was up and running, the state could charge local districts whatever it wanted.
It also questioned the state’s pledge to put up 10 percent of the construction costs, citing possible problems if districts backed out later and questioned whether subscription fees would be based on usage.
One week later, the Board of Regents, with assistance from Louisiana Optical Network Initiative officials, replied with a rebuttal to each concern. They offered to bind the state to the plan, said it would not keep districts from future e-rate applications and disputed claims of any excessive charges in the offing. It said the state’s pledge to finance 10 percent of the construction costs was solid, downplayed concerns about possible problems for districts that opted out later and said subscription fees would not be based on usage.
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