Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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North Florida Broadband Authority: Feds resume funding – Put small vendors first

The North Florida Broadband Authority got back on track to bring high speed internet service to 15 north central Florida rural counties when the Federal Government, listening to the pleas for help from the many small vendors, who have been left reeling from the suspension of the project's funding, turned the money back on late yesterday afternoon. The Feds put it this way, "... NTIA has recommended that NOAA approve a partial draw down of your initial request of $7,682,813.22 ... in the amount of $1,659,683.83 in order to immediately satisfy the credit demands of certain small vendors." The NFBA will remain under heightened scrutiny and still has many questions to answer.

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At a NFBA transition team meeting held in Live Oak late yesterday morning, Denise Hamilton, CFO of Rapid Systems, whose Tampa company is recognized as one of the leading experts in the wireless broadband industry and whose contract was terminated under questionable circumstances for "convenience" told the NFBA members:

Ms. Hamilton's complete remarks on the the lack of funding.

 "We really have a very crucial situation. There are vendors that are putting their homes up for mortgage to pay their employees. Something has to be done."

Rapid Systems has laid out approximately $500,000 of its own money and had to lay off over 10 employees due to the suspension.

NFBA Chairman Fulford responded, "We're at their [the Feds] mercy. They hold the money."

Rapid Systems is on the list of vendors to receive payment.

Link:  The Department of Commerce letter is here, along with the list of vendors authorized to be paid.

Early yesterday evening, the U.S. Department of Commerce sent the NFBA a letter, explaining the release of some of the funds and giving them the word that work on the project can begin again.

Under heightened scrutiny

Two of the firms that were forced to resign and have repeatedly claimed that they will be vindicated of any wrong doing, Government Services Group (GSG) and Capital Solutions – Tallahassee, have had invoices withheld for payment. GSG remains under Federal scrutiny, as does the whole project, which is under investigation by the Office of the Investigator General, known as the OIG.

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