The primary provider of Internet access for public schools—WiscNet—announced this week that its Board of Directors approved contracts for 17 new members, bringing the group’s membership to 496 cooperative members. The Directors also announced a reorganization plan for 2012-13 school year that attempts to address legislative concerns about WiscNet and its relationship with the University of Wisconsin.
In the 2011-13 biennial state budget, legislators and the Governor required several changes in the relationship between WiscNet and the UW. The budget’s stipulations include:
Prohibit the UW from participating in the three broadband grants and require that the funds be returned;
Prohibit the UW from providing telecommunication services, including Internet and broadband, to any other entity when such services are available from a private carrier;
Prohibit the UW from being a member, shareholder or partner in or with WiscNet;
Require the Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct a program and financial audit of the UW’s use of telecommunication services and its relationship with WiscNet.
The budget requires the UW to dissolve its involvement in WiscNet by July 1, 2013.A statement released this week by WiscNet said, “WiscNet is currently undergoing changes that will not only move WiscNet forward, but also continue supporting WiscNet’s record-breaking growth. These changes include positioning WiscNet to serve UW as a possible customer, rather than a member, and separating WiscNet’s fiscal, accounting, human resources and procurement functions from the UW. As a result of being freed from institutional bureaucracies, WiscNet will experience new entrepreneurial flexibilities that benefit the WiscNet community,” said Ross Wilson, Chairman of the WiscNet Board of Directors, who is also the Technology Director for CESA 10 in Chippewa Falls.