As Vice President Al Gore fights to save the eRate from its critics, his home state of Tennessee is facing a battle of its own.

ISIS 2000, the loser in a bid to provide service to the state’s 1,500 schools, has accused the state of fraud in awarding a $49 million eRate contract to Education Networks of America (ENA). ENA’s bid was $23 million higher than ISIS 2000’s.

ENA is owned by Al Ganier, a longtime friend of Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist. ISIS 2000 has urged the Federal Communications Commission to disqualify ENA from participating in the bidding and throw out the state’s application.

An analysis by Rampart Associates, an investment firm with expertise in telecommunications, backed up ISIS 2000’s claim that ENA and the state had inflated their contract by as much as $16 million to qualify for more federal dollars.

Ganier and the state have responded that ISIS 2000 submitted an inferior proposal and is merely disgruntled because it wasn’t chosen.

“You can hire an investment banker to give you any evaluation that you want,” Ganier said. “I don’t find it a credible assessment.”