The state has been negotiating with two Idaho Education Network vendors since October — in hopes of settling more than $6 million in legal claims.
But when the state absorbed another resounding defeat in court Tuesday, the negotiations got derailed.
“Right now we’re in a little bit of a cooling-off period,” Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill told Idaho Education News Thursday. “People want to go back to their own corner.”
Hill, R-Rexburg, confirmed that the settlement talks began last fall. The talks haven’t broken down, he said. But for now, nobody is talking.
Here’s the crux of the matter, and it is messy.
- Two contractors — Education Networks of America and CenturyLink, also known as Qwest — received $29.7 million to provide high-speed Internet to Idaho’s high schools.
- As the protracted Idaho Education Network contract lawsuit worked its way through the state’s courts, the state cut off payments to vendors. In March 2015, ENA and CenturyLink filed separate tort claims against the state, seeking more than $6 million in back payments, interest and other damages.
- Meanwhile, the state continued to defend the Idaho Education Network contract, which had a value of $60 million. On Tuesday, a unanimous Idaho Supreme Court upheld a district court ruling that declared the broadband contract void. And the high court offered the state a less-than-subtle reminder: Because the broadband contract has been declared void, the state must seek repayment from vendors.
Hill understands the Supreme Court’s point. The law doesn’t provide the state any choice but to demand its money back. But the repayment issue casts a cloud over the negotiations process, Hill said.