"In general, our review will involve interviews with officials from West Virginia and the NTIA, site visits and the review of documentation," said Clark Reid, the inspector general's legislative and external affairs officer.
In 2010, West Virginia received a $126.3 million federal stimulus grant to bring high-speed fiber-optic cable to 1,064 "community anchor institutions" -- schools, libraries, county courthouses, 911 centers, health-care clinics and state agencies. State officials have used $24 million from the grant to purchase Internet routers.
The Gazette has reported that the Cisco 3945 series routers were built to serve a minimum of 500 users, and up to tens of thousands of users. But the state has installed the "enterprise-class" devices in some public facilities with only a few Internet connections. Seventy percent of the routers wound up in schools and libraries.
Walden and Shimkus, who serve as chairmen of two House Energy subcommittees, cited the Gazette's reports during a May 16 hearing on Capitol Hill. The House Republicans grilled the Obama administration's telecommunications chief, Lawrence Strickling, about West Virginia's router purchase.
The Gazette also has reported that more than 300 routers remain boxed up in storage. The routers -- purchased in July 2010 -- came with a five-year service warranty, so the state already has lost two years of free maintenance on the devices.
State officials are working to find sites to install the routers. The devices funnel data, such as email and websites, from one computer network to another.
The Office of Inspector General investigates allegations of "waste, fraud and abuse," according to the agency's website. The inspector general has previously audited other NTIA broadband programs.
West Virginia so far has spent $56.4 million of the $126.3 million broadband grant.
In addition to the routers and fiber, the state is using the stimulus funds to build 12 new microwave towers designed to improve the state's public safety system.
The stimulus money also will pay to bring fiber cable from the Green Bank Observatory in Pocahontas County to West Virginia University. That project will allow scientists and researchers to transfer data more quickly.
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.