Wisconsin chooses likely vendors for BadgerNet 2

Wisconsin chooses likely vendors for BadgerNet 2

Madison, Wis. — Wisconsin took a step toward its new statewide video and data network Monday with Governor Jim Doyle’s announcement that the state favors the bid of an alliance of SBC and other telcos.
The BadgerNet alliance proposes to build and manage the network — dubbed BadgerNet 2 — for the state as a replacement for the existing BadgerNet. The network would be available to municipalities and educational institutions around the state, including the University of Wisconsin.
The other telcos involved are Norlight, Verizon, CenturyTel and the independent telcos represented by Access Wisconsin.
Though the public statement from the Department of Administration said Doyle had announced a five-year contract with the BadgerNet alliance, in fact the state has simply given the alliance its intent to negotiate. Even the figure of five years is not set in stone, though Doyle spokesperson Melanie Fonder said a longer term would be unwise and a shorter one would incur extra costs.
Negotiations are expected to be closed before the end of the year, state CIO Matt Miszewski said, and municipalities around the state would have the option of whether to use the network.
“To me, the exciting thing about this network is that it will be present in all 72 counties, so regardless of your location, urban or rural, you will be able to participate,” said Mark Weller, a spokesperson for the BadgerNet alliance.
According to Doyle’s statement, the state will spend $108.7 million over the next five years on the contract, compared to the $155.3 million it spend on video and data services over the last five years.

University and state

The University of Wisconsin System is integral to the network plans, as its campuses will together hold many if not most of the users of the new voice and data services. Until this August, the university was laying plans for its own statewide network, which would have been built and administered in-house, alongside and independent of the state’s network. Doyle favored the state’s privatization plans and told the university to work with the DOA.

Now the university, no longer pursuing its own plans, will participate in the DOA’s negotiations with private vendors. Ed Meachen, CIO for the university, said he had appointed Ron Kraemer, CIO of the University Extension, to the negotiation team.
Meachen said he didn’t see how the governor could announce the contract’s total cost before it was negotiated. Nor did he think that the cost for the university’s needs was built in.
“We don’t even have an agreement on how much bandwidth, for example, each of the UW campuses will be buying,” he said.

Time pressure

Miszewski and Meachen both said the negotiators hoped to reach an agreement by the end of this year. And the sooner, the better, as far as the BadgerNet alliance is concerned.
“The current contract ends in December of 2005, so to build a network of this nature we need to get going very quickly,” Weller said.
Most of the network will use existing, active fiber, he said, but some will have to be installed. The trickest part will be connecting the old network to the new one, he said. Weller was confident the proposed contract would not take much difficulty to reach its final stages.
“I don’t anticipate a great deal of changes, because the solicitation that the Department of Adminstration put out was fairly airtight,” he said. “They explained exactly what they wanted. If you wanted to participate in the process you essentially had to say ‘yes’ to it.”
Jason Stitt is WTN’s associate editor and can be reached at jason@wistechnology.com.