CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia is spending nearly three times more than it expected for every mile of fiber-optic cable being built as part of a statewide high-speed Internet expansion project funded by the federal stimulus, according to a report.
State officials estimated the fiber network for schools, libraries, health clinics and government buildings would cost $17,000 per mile. But the state is spending $47,500 per mile for fiber construction.
In the end, West Virginia will wind up with 25 percent less fiber than expected -- 675 miles instead of the 900-mile network initially promised. The project's cost, however, hasn't changed.
In an annual report posted online last week, state Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato blamed the rising fiber costs on "storms in late 2012" -- presumably Hurricane Sandy, which caused an estimated $14 million in damage across West Virginia. The state's report also cited environmental studies for the fiber construction's higher costs.
The previous year, state officials blamed fallout from the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami for a sharp spike in fiber prices. Fiber became scarce amid the increase in demand, and West Virginia spent $50,000 for every mile of fiber that year, according to the 2011 annual report.
Frontier Communications has the contract with the state to install the fiber. Fiber construction typically costs about $20,000 per mile, according to industry studies.
Officials with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's administration would not immediately comment last week, but said they would answer questions about the fiber costs Monday afternoon. Gianato did not respond to a request for comment.
In 2010, West Virginia received a $126.3 million federal stimulus grant to bring high-speed fiber to more than 1,000 "community anchor institutions" -- schools, libraries, health centers, county courthouses, jails, 911 centers, planning agencies and other public facilities.