CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Citynet President Jim Martin sent out a scathing e-mail this week about West Virginia Commerce Secretary Kelley Goes, alleging that her "misguided" statewide broadband expansion plan could become "the single largest political blunder in the history of our state."
Martin alleged that Goes has ignored advice from state Broadband Council members and failed to properly inform Gov. Joe Manchin about the consequences of her plan to implement a statewide broadband network, according to the e-mail released Wednesday. The state is paying for the network with $126 million in federal stimulus funds.
"This debacle is absolutely the result of what Kelley Goes has done single-handedly," Martin told the Gazette Wednesday afternoon. "It's a tragedy."
Asked about the e-mail, Goes said, "I will not respond to any personal attacks."
Martin said Goes' broadband plan will have "disastrous results" for West Virginia, and "not a single business or resident will receive any benefit from the expenditure of public funds," according to his e-mail.
"In fact, Secretary Goes, in our opinion, has wrongly rejected superior broadband strategies in exchange for what can only be characterized as political favor," Martin wrote in the e-mail to West Virginia Broadband Council members. "The facts and misguided public messaging speak for themselves and generations of West Virginians, and the economic prosperity of our state will suffer from her ill-advised decisions."
In March, West Virginia was awarded a $126 million federal economic stimulus grant to create a statewide high-speed Internet network for all public schools, libraries, health-care facilities, and fire and police departments. As part of the project, Frontier plans to lay fiber-optic cable to 1,064 public facilities.
"The state's goal was simple: Make sure that all schools, libraries, public health and public safety facilities have fiber-based broadband available . . . ." Goes said Wednesday. "The [federal agency that oversees broadband initiatives] has repeatedly told the state that its award is a model for other states. West Virginia has every right to be proud of this grant."
Last week, Martin sent a separate letter to federal officials, alleging the stimulus funds weren't being spent as the state promised in its broadband grant application.
Instead of establishing a "middle-mile" broadband network that all telecommunications companies could tap into, the state was using the funds to build a "last-mile" network that will be handed over to Frontier, Martin wrote to the U.S. Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, an agency that monitors stimulus spending.
Martin called Goes' plan "a complete waste of taxpayer money." He also filed a formal protest with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which advises President Obama on broadband and other telecommunication policies.
Martin forwarded a copy of the letter to Broadband Council members this week, along with his e-mail critical of Goes. The Gazette obtained a copy of the e-mail after the council's meeting Wednesday in Charleston.
In the message, Martin alleged that Goes has shown a "lack of leadership" on the council, and has "no experience or expertise in broadband whatsoever." Goes serves as chairwoman of the council.
"It appears the council is being intentionally manipulated to publicly communicate its implied agreement with, or vetting of, strategies conjured up by Secretary Goes," Martin wrote.
Martin said neighboring states, including Pennsylvania, that received federal stimulus funds for broadband expansion are using the money to build "open-access" networks that foster competition, giving consumers a choice when selecting a high-speed Internet provider.