CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A $126.3 million federal stimulus project was intended to bring high-speed fiber-optic Internet connections to public facilities across West Virginia, but state officials are now mostly selecting sites that already have fiber and delivering routers instead.
Last week, the state designated 175 new sites as "community anchor institutions" that will receive upgraded Internet service. Only seven of those sites will get high-speed fiber cable. All facilities will get new routers.
"Due to the amount of time required for environmental assessments and fiber builds, we determined that we would limit most of the additional sites to 'router-only' so that we could complete the build on time," said Diane Holley-Brown, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Technology.
Two years ago, former Gov. Joe Manchin's administration promised to use the federal stimulus money to build fiber at 1,064 community anchors -- schools, libraries, health centers, State Police detachments, county courthouses, 911 centers and other public agencies, according to the state's grant application.
But the state is on pace to bring high-speed fiber to just 639 of those 1,064 public facilities. The remaining sites will only get routers, according to a Dec. 21 project report.
Among schools, the state has designated 530 buildings that will receive upgraded Internet service funded by the stimulus. Of those, 60 percent will only get routers because the facilities already have fiber, records show.
The state faces a Jan. 31 deadline to complete the project, but has since asked the federal government for an extension through Sept. 30.
The state's grant application spotlights plans to bring fiber to public facilities, but mentions little about Internet routers, other than to say routing equipment will be purchased to funnel data from the new fiber lines.
In July 2010, the state used $24 million of the $126.3 million in stimulus funds to purchase 1,064 Cisco Internet routers for public facilities.
The state bought the routers without first ensuring there were a sufficient number of places to put them. It turned out many of the designated sites already had fiber and suitable routers.
"In addition, there have been closures, relocations and other changes that have eliminated locations," Holley-Brown said.