CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's recent struggle to put federal stimulus-funded Internet routers into public facilities across the state has not slowed Frontier Communications' work to bring high-speed fiber-optic cable to schools, a Frontier engineer said Tuesday.
"Frontier does not have a role in router deployment," said Mark McKenzie, engineering manager with Frontier. "[The router problem] will not impact the construction of fiber."
Frontier has built 121 miles of fiber to K-12 schools in West Virginia under the federal economic stimulus project, according to a report. More than 470 schools are scheduled to receive a new fiber-optic connection.
"It's very encouraging to see the progress that's being made," said Wade Linger, state school board president. "Every month we're getting closer."
State school board members raised questions about the Internet computer routers Wednesday in response to recent Gazette reports that more than 300 of the devices remain in storage -- nearly two years after the state purchased the equipment with $24 million in federal stimulus funds. The routers cost $22,600 each.
The Gazette also reported that state officials were putting the pricey routers in small schools, libraries and health-care centers, even though the high-powered equipment was designed for college campuses, medical centers and large corporations.
"We want to make sure the money is being spent right and efficiently," said Lowell Johnson, a state school board member.
Linger said the routers may be larger than necessary for elementary, middle and high schools, but would still work in those facilities. The schools require routers to connect to the fiber network that Frontier is building with the stimulus funds.
In March 2010, the state received a $126 million federal stimulus grant to expand high-speed Internet in West Virginia. The state plans to bring fiber connections to more than 1,000 "community anchor institutions" -- schools, libraries, health-care centers, state police detachments, county courthouses, 911 dispatch centers, jails and other public agency facilities.
In July 2010, the state purchased 1,064 Cisco routers.
Last week, 366 of those routers remained boxed-up in storage sites throughout the state, and 186 of the devices didn't have designated places to put them.
State Department of Education administrators also have raised questions over the size of the routers. Nonetheless, the department has distributed and installed the devices at a faster clip than most state agencies.