Is the half-a-Billion dollar state-owned fiber optic network a boondoggle? When the Iowa Communications Network was created a decade ago, supporters said it would provide “distance learning” by teaching courses over the two-way audio/video connection. Senator Don Redfern, a republican from Cedar Falls, says the Network hasn’t lived up to its billing.Redfern says last spring, only 23-hundred Iowa students were taking courses for credit over the Network.Redfern, who is chairman of the Senate Education Committee, voted against creation of the state-owned communications network. Redfern made his comments during taping of the Iowa Public Television program, “Iowa Press.”The chairman of a powerful legislative committee also says it’s time to set the wheels in motion to sell the state-owned communications network. The Iowa Communications Network, to date, has cost taxpayers about half a Billion dollars to build and maintain. House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Millage says it’s time to admit building a state telephone company was a mistake, and sell it.Last spring, less than one-half of one percent of Iowa’s K-through-12 students used the Iowa Communications Network the way it was intended — for long-distance learning by taking a course over the network from a teacher in another school.Millage says the legislature will likely debate the Network’s sale in the next two months, although he cautions the sale would be so complicated, it can’t be done quickly.
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