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State should reprioritize federal funds

August 29, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

Nearly half the residents of West Virginia do not have access to high-speed Internet service. Yet when state government gets federal money to improve access to the Internet, it wastes millions of dollars.

About 845,000 West Virginians lack access to broadband Internet access, according to a federal report. Efforts are under way to remedy that, but progress has been slow.

In 2010 the state received a $123 million federal grant to provide high-speed Internet access at about 1,000 key institutions, such as libraries and schools. About $24 million was used to buy more than 1,000 expensive, high-capacity Internet routers. Many of them have not yet been installed because they are far more elaborate than the target institutions need. Some facilities need routers to handle only handfuls of computers; the state-purchased routers were built for hundreds.

Both state and federal investigations of the router purchase are being conducted.

Of course, the $123 million grant was not intended to extend high-speed Internet access to private homes. Still, the amount of waste involved in that program, contrasted with the need for better Internet service to so many households, leads to a troubling question asked too often about government programs: What's wrong with this picture?



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