CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Broadband Deployment Council has $1.7 million in grant money to distribute for high-speed Internet expansion projects this year, but only $309,000 in requests.
The council received six grant applications, 18 fewer than last year.
"I'm stunned," council Chairman Dan O'Hanlon said. "This is free money. Our goal was -- and is -- to give all [$1.7 million] away."
For months, the council has worked with regional planning agencies, encouraging companies and nonprofit organizations to apply for state grants.
At meetings last summer, broadband council members said they hoped application requests would exceed available funds. They wanted to show state lawmakers that the council needed more funding for broadband projects. Council members voted to ask Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette to include $5 million more for the broadband board in the commerce department's upcoming budget.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed bills designed to increase Internet speeds and encourage people to sign up for broadband service in West Virginia. Council members expected the measures to spur more grant applications this year -- not fewer requests.
Last year, the council had $6 million in grant requests and distributed $2 million for wireless Internet projects.
After a meeting Wednesday, council members said they were at a loss to explain the lack of interest this year.
"I don't know why," O'Hanlon said. "We did it the same way this year as we did it the first time."
To make matters worse, some of the applications don't seem to comply with the council's mission: to expand broadband service and spur demand for high-speed Internet.