Lawmakers question Luna's award of multi-year Wi-Fi contract

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- Some Idaho lawmakers are questioning State Schools Superintendent Tom Luna's award of a a statewide Wi-Fi network contract to a private company that could potentially last up to 15 years without prior budget approval.

The Idaho State Department of Education Wednesday awarded a five-year contract to Education Networks of America (ENA) for a managed service that will provide uninterrupted, high-speed wireless internet access in public high schools in Idaho.

Luna spokeswoman Melissa McGrath told KBOI-TV the contract is for $2.1 million a year over five years. She said at the end of the five years, both parties can decide if they want to renew the contract for another five years.

McGrath says the contract was called for in a 2013 Senate bill.

But the Spokesman-Review reports Idaho Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron insists the bill included nothing about a long-term contract. Cameron said the budget committee wouldn't have agreed to a multi-year contract and Luna's move shows a lack of judgment.

And Rep. Maxine Bell, co-chair of the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee, told KBOI-TV the multi-year contract is "dangerous" and "troubling".

"Sometimes when you have an elephant of this size, you have to take it one bite at a time." Bell told KBOI-TV. "I realize this is important to the schools but it seems to me there could have been a way where we could have taken it year by year

Luna said in a statement: "As a state, it is our goal and our responsibility to ensure every child has equal access to the best educational opportunities, no matter where they live. To accomplish this, we have to equip every public high school with the advanced technology and tools necessary to create these opportunities."