- Associated Press - Friday, March 6, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho has signed a roughly $1.9 million emergency contract with CenturyLink to maintain Internet services to 16 state agencies and five public health districts.

The state Department of Administration finalized the contract Feb. 27, just two weeks after a district judge voided Idaho’s $60 million broadband contract with CenturyLink and Education Networks of America.

The troubled contract provided broadband access -known as the Idaho Education Network program- primarily to nearly 200 public high schools while also allowing state agencies to receive broadband services.

Idaho lawmakers have since approved a $3.6 million interim plan that requires school districts to negotiate their own broadband contract and request reimbursement later. However, the bailout did not address replacing the state agencies’ Internet.

Department of Administration spokeswoman Jennifer Pike says the emergency contract for the agencies is in place for the next six months at the same rate the state was previously paying. Because the department declared it an emergency, no other vendor except CenturyLink was pursued.

The contract allows for an extension should a new vendor not immediately be available.

Republican Sen. Dean Cameron, chairman of the state’s powerful budget committee, says it was the department’s job to replace those Internet services when the contract was voided. The judge issued a ruling voiding the contract after finding the state violated its own procurement laws.

Cameron added that he wasn’t surprised the department had signed an emergency contract but noted that the Joint Finance Appropriations budget committee will set the department’s budget on Wednesday.

“It will be less than what they requested,” Cameron said.

Lawmakers revoked the department’s authority to look over the broadband network this year once the ruling was released and placed the bailout money in the hands of the Department of Education. It’s unknown if the department will continue to oversee the broadband program in the long-term.

The Legislature is considering guidelines proposed by the department that would enhance oversight on Idaho’s most expensive service contracts. The new rules have yet to be approved after a House panel voiced concerns that the department’s suggestions don’t go far enough to enhance accountability.

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