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North Florida Broadband Authority: NFBA failed to make the grade in Gilchrist County

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The helter-skelter saga of the North Florida Broadband Authority (NFBA), the woebegotten $30,000,000 Obama stimulus funded broadband project, continued after our last article, which had an exasperated Columbia County, North Central Florida's richest, most powerful rural county, withdrawing from the NFBA. The next day, the NFBA road show appeared in Madison County, with its only last mile provider, SVIC. With exactly 90 days left before the Federal money spigot was to shut off, the NFBA had only a handful of customers. It was on a mission to steal as many customers from established Internet service providers as it could and do whatever it took to make it sustainable by the Federal funds cut-off date of January 31, 2013.

Doing whatever it took began 30 days before on October 1st in Gilchrist County, when the NFBA road show's General Manager, Richelle Sucara and Project Manager Donny Lort appeared in front of the Gilchrist County Commission, with their hands out looking for in-kind (free) assets on which to install private vendor last mile equipment. This equipment was going to be used to steal existing customers from the established Internet service providers in Gilchrist County.

Recently Obtained Audio from Gilchrist County

During that meeting, General Manager Sucara explained that the purpose of the NFBA was to "roll out high speed Internet service in the region at an affordable attractive rate and to provide access to un-served and under-served audiences."

Then, using Lake City as an example, Sucara explained Internet service this way: "An under-served audience would be the NFBA office in downtown Lake City. We have access to the major, major carriers. However our access is sporadic; our Internet is down from time to time. So what we have done is we are buying service from ourselves and powering up our office in downtown Lake City, where you might think that there is adequate broadband and adequate capacity. Not so."

Lake City has a multitude of Internet Service Providers providing every available service at every price point, with Comcast's Business plan delivering a premium business service of 27meg down and 7meg up at $109.95 a month.

Comcast has been a particular target of Project Manager Donny Lort.

What GM Sucara left out was that with the American People's money, the NFBA had already purchased and paid well over $6,000,000 dollars for the bandwidth that she now claimed she was "buying" from herself.

After the Dixie County story appeared, County Manager Mike Cassidy e-mailed the Observer: "I knew that the NFBA was lacking in its basic premise and promise! We could clearly see that we should not have immediate hopes for getting Broadband to our areas in need, even the areas with population density that should have been adequate enough to gain service or at least be considered."

When one of the Gilchrist County Commissioners inquired about the withdrawal of Taylor and Dixie Counties and asked, "Did they tell you why they were opting out?" GM Sucara said," ... It's in their resolution... There were allegations of waste fraud and abuse, none of which were true."

The Federal Investigation into the NFBA project is ongoing and limping along in what many believe is an Obama administration cover-up. The waste, fraud and abuse question has yet to be settled.

Backdating leases – the Modus Operandi for the NFBA

The NFBA and its leases have been an ongoing issue. At times, the NFBA produced 250 year leases to some communities and it appears that some of them may have signed those. Recently, many communities began to balk at leases that extended past the useful life of the project.

Gilchrist County Commissioner Randy Durden asked GM Sucara, "How are you going to vote on an agreement today and post date it back five years?"

In March of 2012, FSU's Director of the Institute of Government and Executive Director of the NFEDP, Jeff Hendry, explained the value of the memorandums of understanding this way: By adopting the MOU it does not BIND the County to allow the NFBA to gain access to or use the assets in any way — access to and the actual use of the facilities would only be authorized under a negotiated lease agreement that would have to take place between the NFBA and the County at a subsequent time. (emphasis added by Mr. Hendry)

The General Manager answered, "Here's the reason that we're backdating those. The reason is we received resolutions and memorandums of understanding from all the counties and all the cities that want to donate in-kind assets. ... We are asking that you backdate the lease to the same time the promise was made. Unfortunately, Gilchrist County didn't give us a promise back in 2009... If the Commission is fine postdating it, I'll take that. If you're not -- ya know."

Gilchrist County Attorney, John K. McPherson, was neither happy, nor comfortable with that explanation.

Gilchrist County Commissioner D. Ray Harrison, Jr. asked GM Sucara, "Did you come from the Internet world?"

The $200,000 a year (benefits included) General Manager, a public sector employee for her business life in Florida, replied, "On no, I hooked up my router for the first time last week. I did it though."

The room went silent.

Ms. Sucara then explained that after January 31, 2013, the NFBA will be gearing up to go after all customers and explained the present NFBA business plan this way: "Our Board made a policy decision at the last board meeting that said we want all the community anchor institutions hooked up, but we want you to go through a last mile provider to get them hooked up... we don't want the NFBA at the retail level, unless they cannot get hooked up by a last mile provider. I have the authority to do that."

After two hours of grilling by the Gilchrist County Commission, it remained unconvinced and ultimately voted not to approve the inkind asset to the NFBA unless they were willing to pay for it.


A month later, after another show stopping unsuccessful appearance at Columbia County, the NFBA honchos decided it is best not to meet with County Commissions one on one.

When held up to the light, the North Florida Broadband Authority has proven over and over that it can take neither scrutiny nor heat. It remains shielded from public view by a complicit Board of North Central Florida's politicians, elected officials, and community leaders, as well as the Obama administration.

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Links to the NFBA series:

North Florida Broadband Authority:
Baker County becomes the 7th north central Florida county to pull out of Obama stimulus funded NFBA

(Part XXXVII) (February 19, 2013)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Feds put failing stimulus funded NFBA on life support. 3yrs and $28+ mil later, 60 customers and no revenue model.
(Part XXXVI) (February 15, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Former Board Clerk sues NFBA for wrongful termination and violation of her constitutional rights
(Part XXXV) (January 30, 2013)

North Florida Broadband Authority: $30 mil later N. Central Florida Regional Planning Council - clueless
(Part XXXIV) (January 25, 2013)

North Florida Broadband Authority: After General Counsel's response, FL's Public Record Laws remain the latest casualty
(Part XXXIII (b)) (January 8, 2013)

• North Florida Broadband Authority: FL's Public Record Laws the latest casualty
(Part XXXIII) (January 6, 2013)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Foot dragging, lack of info cause Suwannee Cnty to call "strike 3" on the NFBA – They're out
(Part XXXII) (January 3, 2013)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Suwannee County tells the NFBA – One more strike and you're out
(PartXXXI) (December 20, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Wracked by gross mismanagement from the feds on down, the NFBA has become the poster child for non disclosure
(Part XXX) (December 18, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: More bad news. Last Mile Wifi CEO, "I knew they were going to extort me."
(Part XXIX) December 10, 2012

North Florida Broadband Authority: NFBA failed to make the grade in Gilchrist County
(Part XXVIII) (November 29, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Columbia County Pulls Out of Obama Funded Stimulus Project
(Part XXVII) (November 2, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: The NFBA road show traveled to an unprepared Columbia County with misinformation, half truths, and just plain lies
(Part XXVI) (Posted October 9, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Woebegotten Stimulus funded authority gets another black eye. No one bids to service the $30 mil 14 county network.
(Part XXV) (Posted October 1, 2012)

• North Florida Broadband Auth: Another County pulls out. Dixie says throwing away money a major issue.
(Part XXIV) (Posted September 13, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: NFBA road shows moves to Lake City for a double dose of free money
(Part XXIII) (Posted September 5, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Secrecy and a lawyer's spread sheet. It's business as usual at the NFBA.
(Part XXII) (Posted August 22, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority:  Mainstreet Broadband, NFBA's touted business partner, goes bust
(Part XXI) (Posted August 2, 2012)

• North Florida Broadband Authority: Two cities say "no mas." Refuse free tower space to NFBA
(Part XX)  (Posted July 26, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Taylor County Says Goodbye, "I don't think our county should be involved."
(Part XIX) (Posted April 18, 2012)

• North Florida Broadband Authority: Perry Pulls Out, City Manager tells Council, "It's just out of whack"
(Part XVIII) (Posted April 11, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Bradford County Says "No Mas" – Pulls Out
(Part XVII) (Posted April 4, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Operating in the shadows with the help of the Feds, the NFBA saga continues
(Part XVI) (posted March 29, 2012)

Lake City, City Manager Wendell Johnson looks to make White Elephant deal with troubled North Florida Broadband Authority
(Part XV) (Posted Feb 28, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Propped up by the Feds, financed by the American People - Who can you trust?
(Part XIV) (Posted Feb 25, 2012)

North Florida Broadband Authority:
"Sunlight is the best disinfectant." Not for them

(Part XIII) (Posted Jan 13, 2011)

North Florida Broadband Authority:
A Lawyer's Dream. A Look At The Numbers
(Part XIIb) (Posted Dec 29, 2011)

North Florida Broadband Authority:
A Lawyer's Dream. Money Is No Object
(Part XIIa) (Posted Dec 28, 2011)

North Florida Broadband Authority:
Feds come to town – Working under the cover of darkness was their MO

(Part XI) (Posted November 23, 2011)

North Florida Broadband Authority:
Feds continue investigation - Interim GM rehires resigned firms employees

(part X) (Posted Nov 11, 2011)

North Florida Broadband Authority: "The greatest threat to this project is the Government"
(Part IX) (Posted November 2, 2011)

• Federal grant for broadband access in rural Louisiana rescinded: Could the North Florida Broadband Authority Be Far Behind?
(Posted October 28, 2011)

• North Florida Broadband Authority: Redefining "Good Business Sense?"
(Part VIII) (Posted October 25, 2011)

• North Florida Broadband Authority: Feds resume funding – Put small vendors first
(Part VII) (Posted October 20, 2011)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Small vendors in big trouble | NFEDP/FSU's Hendry may resign (Part VIb)  (Posted Oct 14, 2011)

North Florida Broadband Authority: Blood in the street (Part VIa)  (posted Oct 13, 2011)

North Florida Broadband Authority: "I don't want to die on principle and not have broadband." (Part V)  (posted Oct. 6, 2011)

NFBA future in limbo - Fed keeps funds locked down - Suspend project  (Part IV) (posted Sept 28, 2011)

The North Florida Broadband Authority. Its world was about to change (part III)  (posted Sept 16, 2011)

"I think we have a failure to communicate." The N Florida Rural Broadband saga continues (Part II)  (posted Sept 14, 2011)

Feds close spigot on $30 million broadband stimulus grant. 15 north central Florida counties waiting for money to flow again
(Part I)  (posted Sept 12, 2011)