CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With $9 million left over from a $126.3 million federal stimulus grant, West Virginia technology officials are reviewing seven proposals to spend the money, including a $1.1 million project to buy a tour bus that would travel the state and spread the word about the advantages of high-speed Internet service.
Bridgeport-based Citynet, which set up a website criticizing the state's use of the stimulus funds, submitted the "iBus" proposal this week.
Citynet also would use the stimulus funds to equip the tour bus with laptops and iPads.
"The bus will demo technology and expose people to the Internet," said Citynet CEO Jim Martin, who serves on the West Virginia Broadband Deployment Council.
A state Office of Technology committee plans to select the best of the seven project ideas and submit them to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration -- the federal agency overseeing the stimulus grant -- for approval.
West Virginia must use the estimated $9 million in leftover funds by Feb. 13 or risk having to return the unspent grant money to the federal government.
"It's a short time frame, so we're trying to expedite the process," said Gale Given, West Virginia's chief technology officer.
Four companies and a state agency requested a combined $15 million, so not all projects will be funded.
"Overall, it's a pretty good mix," Given said Thursday. "We didn't really have any specific project in mind when we put out the request . . . ."
WVNET, a state Internet-services agency that works primarily with West Virginia's colleges and universities, submitted two proposals.
The agency requested $2.13 million to help the Kanawha County Public Library system set up video-conferencing "hubs" and a video repository.
The project would establish video centers at the Main Library in downtown Charleston, and at the Elk Valley, Riverside and St. Albans branch libraries. Library leaders hope to use the equipment for educational programs and staff training.
"It's so they can be a 21st-century library," said Dan O'Hanlon, executive director of WVNET and chairman of the state broadband council.
WVNET also requested $3.7 million for a second project that would expand the state's ability to store data. The agency has proposed purchasing three "Global Environment for Network Innovations [GENI] racks."
"The federal government has announced that, for the U.S. to remain a leader in network innovation, GENI racks should be deployed in every state so our researchers can continue to create the best network in the world," O'Hanlon said.
Citynet also requested funds for two projects.