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Another member of the North Florida Broadband Authority (NFBA) drops out

March 26, 2013

The Gainesville Sun reported last week that yet another member of the North Florida Broadband Authority (NFBA) has dropped out of the consortium. The Sun explained, “The Gilchrist County Commission voted unanimously Monday night to withdraw membership from the North Florida Broadband Authority, making it the eighth of 15 member counties, along with the city of Perry, to have opted out over the past year …”

Despite reports that the NFBA has been thinking about getting into last mile service, the article notes that the Authority was supposed to use the $30 million grant it received from the 2009 federal stimulus program to build a middle mile network to which last mile services providers could attach. The NFBA currently serves three last mile providers who have a total of 600 subscribers. (At $30 million, that means taxpayers payers have spent $50,000 per subscriber.)

The Sun says NFBA authorities don’t believe that current customer base will allow it to survive financially. (Hence why they may be thinking of going outside their mandate.) At the meeting where the commissioners voted to get out of the NFBA, County Clerk Todd Newton pointed out “the last budget he saw showed $150,000 in monthly expenses and $14,000 in revenues.”

Employees of the NFBA did not blame their own record for Gilchrist and other counties leaving the Authority. Instead they blamed, “a misinformation campaign by a former board member, former contractors and a Lake City blogger alleging fraud and waste, among other issues, along with a current rash of anti-federal sentiment toward the stimulus program.”

Ultimately, though, it wasn’t concerns raised by others that caused Gilchrist County commissioners to withdraw. Like many of the other counties that have parted ways with the NFBA, Gilchrist leaders cited a lack of transparency by NFBA officials as their reasons for leaving. The Sun said, “Commissioner Ray Harrison Jr. said answers to their questions have not been backed by proof. Commissioner John Thomas said he has never seen an accounting of where the money has been spent.”