State Expected to Approve Agile Network Deal Today Under Heavy Opposition

UPDATE   The state of Indiana’s $50 million, 25-year deal with Ohio-based company Agile Networks to manage the state’s communications network is expected to be approved today. The Indiana Finance Authority’s board of directors will have the final say according to Watchdog.org, and pass along the contract to the Indiana Legislature’s budget committee for review.

The deal has come under criticism from Hoosier telecom companies, including the Indiana Broadband and Technology Association and Indiana Cable, who blasted the deal as “short-sighted” in a joint letter recently penned to Dan Huge, Director of the Indiana Finance Authority.

The letter, signed by Indiana Cable Executive Director Joni Hart and Indiana Broadband and Technology Association President John E. Koppin, criticizes the state’s lack of transparency during the agreement, the deal’s failure to ensure the expansion of rural internet access and its threat to a competitive marketplace for broadband companies in Indiana.

“For these reasons, the broadband industry in Indiana stands united in advising the IFA not to proceed with this agreement in its current form,” Hart and Koppin state in the letter. “We strongly encourage IFA to reconsider this decision to pit the state against private providers.”         

Hart echoed a similar sentiment in a recent interview with Watchdog.org, in which she said she would like to see “significant changes” to the agreement before the Indiana Legislature approves it, but remains skeptical that the agreement will be changed in a major way.

In particular, Hart was critical of the inclusion of the state’s broadband assets; she said she was “told repeatedly it be would be a tower management-only deal” and called the rights-of-way portion of the agreement “especially egregious.”

The state of Indiana recently announced the details of the $50 million, 25-year agreement with Agile Networks, which gives the Ohio-based company the rights to manage the state’s communications network. The Indiana Finance Authority’s board of directors is expected to approve the deal on Thursday, reports Watchdog.org and pass along the contract to the Indiana Legislature’s budget committee for final review.

Under the agreement, Agile Networks will pay $50 million for the 25-year rights to manage the state of Indiana’s network, which includes the state’s cell and radio towers, fiber-optic cables and streamlined rights-of-way. Proponents say the agreement will help expand broadband access to the state’s rural areas.

Indiana State Senator Luke Kenley, a member of the state’s budget committee, told IndianaPublicMedia.org the state is trying to make sure the deal is “fair to all parties.”

“I think the administration and the governor’s office is trying to structure this so that everybody’s a winner in this relationship, and we can take advantage of these opportunities, have better broadband and maybe get some return on assets,” Kenley said.

November 17, 2016

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