CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the next week or two, West Virginia officials will determine how much money will be left over from a $126.3 million federal stimulus grant to expand high-speed Internet across the state, Broadband Deployment Council members learned Wednesday.
For months, Broadband Council members have pressed state officials to estimate the amount of unused funds that will be available after the broadband project is finished.
Telecommunication industry sources have said that $25 million to $50 million could be left over.
"There has to be a ton of money out there," said Lee Fisher, a West Virginia Broadband Council member.
At Wednesday's council meeting, John Dunlap, a state Office of Technology administrator, declined to estimate the expected amount of leftover stimulus funds. But Dunlap said a figure would be available within two weeks.
Fisher said it's imperative that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin be told as soon as possible how much money will be left over, so the governor can petition federal officials to reallocate any unspent funds for other broadband expansion projects in West Virginia.
"The governor has the right to ask that this money be reprogrammed," Fisher said. "I would like to see the council get some of that money."
In 2010, West Virginia received a $126.3 million federal stimulus grant to install fiber-optic cable and bring high-speed broadband to more than 1,000 "community anchor institutions" -- mostly schools, libraries and health clinics.
The state has scaled back the project significantly. Fisher noted that the state's initial broadband project proposal was for 2,400 miles of fiber. The current plan calls for 567 miles of fiber.
So fiber installation costs alone should drop from about $60 million to $14.1 million -- a $39 million savings.
But Broadband Council Chairman Dan O'Hanlon said other project construction-related costs were higher than expected, which could drive down the amount of leftover stimulus funds.
"The environmental assessment costs were a lot more than anybody ever dreamed," O'Hanlon said Wednesday.