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Assembly slows down RI wireless network

The Phoenix reported earlier this year on how a statewide wireless network, the first in the nation, could be a boon for economic development in Rhode Island. Now, the ProJo's Tim Barmann has the details of how the progress of the network has stalled, at least for now.

A plan by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation to build a statewide wireless computer network is now in question after the General Assembly chose not to back a $28.5-million loan that the EDC said it needed to finance the project.

The loan guarantee was contained in Governor Carcieri’s budget proposal, and would have allowed the EDC to borrow the money needed to build the Rhode Island Wireless Innovation Networks, or RI-WINs.

Legislators took out the loan-guarantee language when they passed the budget last week. The provision would have put state taxpayers on the hook for loan payments if the initiative failed to produce the revenue expected by the EDC.

Saul Kaplan, executive director of the EDC, said the agency was disappointed, but undeterred. His agency will continue to pursue the initiative based on feedback from the General Assembly, he said.

The lawmakers told him they wanted to see more private-sector participation in the program and suggested that other financing mechanisms be found, Kaplan said in an interview yesterday.

“So that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’re having conversations with several private-sector players,” he said.

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