State officials continue to give Kentucky citizens the runaround, failing to release the terms of a $350 million government broadband project a full ten months after it was signed. Kentucky Wired is set to cost US taxpayers $20 million, with Kentucky residents footing a further $30 million. Despite this, nobody has so far seen the terms of the deal. Jim Waters, president of free-market think tank the Kentucky Bluegrass Institute, says the officials are “playing rope-a-dope. They don’t want taxpayers to see anything until they’re certain nothing can be changed on this.” Officials have already missed a deadline earlier this month to put up the paperwork online, and failed to publish it by a second deadline of September 25. Auditor spokeswoman Stephenie Hoelsher said she was “sheepish” and “embarrassed” to admit the auditing office had not even heard the terms of the deal, adding “it’s probably something we should be looking at right now.”
As well as the money put up by local and federal taxpayers, Macquarie Group is also set to invest $300 million in the system which it will design, develop and operate for the next 30 years. Like the contract, this deal also appears to be shrouded in secrecy, with state officials refusing to say what Macquarie stood to gain from the deal and officials from the firm saying they wouldn’t speak on the record. It is also unclear from the proposals how much state officials will spend on marketing the program or how much it will actually cost subscribers. . David Williams, president of the Virginia-based Taxpayer Protection Alliance, questions what will happen if Macquarie doesn’t put up all of the money- will taxpayers be on the hook for even more of the cost? All of these are important questions, but they are questions which – until the government publishes the contract – cannot be answered.
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