Louisiana's middle mile project halts as broadband grant is revoked

Lousiana's Broadband Alliance (LBA) project may have had some grand ambitions, but it looks like those ambitions may be a dream deferred as the U.S. Department of Commerce has revoked its $80 million Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant--one of the largest terminations of any BTOP project in terms of dollar amount.

Senator Mary Landrieu

Sen. Landrieu

In a letter sent to the Louisiana State Board of Regents, sponsor and legal owner of the project, Arlene Simpson Porter, director of NOAA's Grants Management Division (part of the Commerce Dept.), said that the BTOP grant for LBA "is terminated immediately."

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) expressed disappointment that the funds were revoked and pointed a finger squarely at the six state agencies involved in the project.

"Despite receiving the green light for more than $80 million in federal funds," said Landrieu in a statement, "the State fumbled the ball and was either unable or unwilling to complete the project, which could have been a tremendous boost to central and Northeast Louisiana." 

In addition to providing a 910-mile fiber network to provide services to the state's colleges and grade schools, the project was going to provide an interconnection point to the existing state research and educational network (REN), the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative (LONI), and a similar public network in adjacent Mississippi.

Louisiana is not the only state to have issues with broadband stimulus funding. Wisconsin returned its $22.978 million BTOP award earlier this year and in Florida a investigation has been launched into the North Florida Broadband Authority's project over alleged mismanagement and improper vendor supervision.

For more:
- StimulatingBroadband.com has this article
- read Sen. Landrieu's statement
- and NOAA's revocation letter (PDF)

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