Feeds

Chicago schools hurt by web project gone wrong

$50m evaporates

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Top three mobile application threats

Chicago schools looking to capitalize on a federally-funded program for bridging the digital divide have suffered through a string of bureaucratic blunders, politically tainted contracts and overall incompetence, according to the Chicago Tribune. These failures have led to the loss of at least $50m in funds and left hundreds of schools without adequate internet access.

Chicago's main paper dug through thousands of documents concerning the E-rate program, which was launched under the Clinton administration. The program added a tax to consumers' phone bills and then earmarked the funds for technology needs at schools and libraries. Chicago has received a stunning total of $389m from E-rate but may have to give up $50m of that total as a result of failing to meet federal deadlines to spend the cash.

"Chicago school officials say that the program has been a success locally, and that 85 percent of schools have 'every classroom, lab and library fully connected to the Internet,'" writes the Tribune. "But the district's records for 544 schools show that only 274, just over half, have Internet access in every one of those rooms."

More troubling is the amount of deals that seem to be politically motivated.

The Barrett Group, for example, was hired on a consulting basis to aid the city in receiving E-rate extensions. The company's MD Andrew Barrett once served as commissioner for the Illinois Commerce Commission and the FCC. The firm received $240,000 for its work, facing no competition for the contract. Barrett, however, told the paper that he was doing the city a favor by charging $300 an hour instead of his typical $400 per hour. What a guy.

A second no-bid deal went the way of JDL Technologies for research into wireless networks. JDL was picked after School Board President Michael Scott followed the advice of his friend Dwain Kyles - owner of the tragic E2 nightclub. JDL then went on to hire subcontractor Phoenix Co., which is headed up by Donna Gaines - a chum of Kyles, the Tribune discovered.

In addition to the friendly no-bid contracts, Chicago's E-rate program has been struck by incompetence.

One contractor LS International charged area schools $1.3m for work that was "was never legally authorized" and "was never completed," according to docs unearthed by the paper. The company later returned the money to the US government and has been banned from district work for three years. A second contractor Solai & Cameron received a double payment for work due to a paperwork error. After the mistake was discovered, the firm was given more work to make up for the extra cash. Not bad.

Chicago also has $8m in computer equipment sitting unused in a warehouse, according to federal investigators.

In total, Chicago ranks last among the five cities that received the most federal funds with regard to the amount of money it has spent thus far. Chicago's failures could see it be forced to rebid for $50m in funds that will go back into a federal pool.

More crucially, many of the city's poorest schools remains without Internet access - the very problem E-rate was meant to solve. Federal investigators have been looking into problems nationwide, hoping to stem corruption and incompetence in numerous cities.

The entire report, registration required, is available here. It took up most of the Chicago Tribune front page this morning. ®

Related stories

Chicago looks to ogle its own with snoop network
After blog experiment, Illinois village 'vanishes'
Chicago's emergency call center suffers heat exhaustion

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.