North Florida's broadband initiative comes under government fire

The North Florida Broadband Authority (NFBA), a community-led consortium building a middle mile network serving 14 rural counties in North Central Florida, is facing allegations of project mismanagement and improper vendor supervision.

While the federal government conducts their investigation, they suspended the $30.1 million grant the NFBA was set to receive and no more work is being done on the hybrid microwave and fiber-based Ubiquitous Middle Mile open access network.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Grants Office, the organization overseeing the administration of the grant money, said it received allegations of improper management and will review whether the grant could be awarded.

According to a Miami Herald article, some of the NFBA's members argued there was a conflict of interest between the manager of the project's government services group and Capital Solutions, which will ensure the grant money is being administered correctly.

One of the issues is that Robert Sheets, GSG's CEO, owns a 25 percent stake in Meridian Services group, a company led by CEO and president Lisa Blair. Blair also serves as the CEO of Capital Solutions.

Florida overall has become a hotbed of bad press around questionable broadband stimulus projects. Similar allegations of mismanagement drove the city of Tallahassee to return their $1.2 million broadband grant.

The North Florida Broadband Authority has until October to present a revised project management plan that addresses the allegations.

For more:
- Miami Herald has this article

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