CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia "taxpayers were best served" by the state's decision to use $24 million in federal stimulus funds to purchase more than 1,000 high-end Internet routers for public facilities, a state official overseeing the spending told federal lawmakers.
Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato said West Virginia is building a high-speed Internet network "based on expected future needs," according to a letter Gianato recently sent to two U.S. House Energy and Commerce subcommittee chairmen who are scrutinizing the router purchase. The routers cost $22,600 each.
"The whole project was designed for the future," Gianato told the Gazette Wednesday. "It wasn't designed for today's needs. These routers will, hopefully, take us 10 to 12 years into the future."
The state has installed the routers in rural schools, libraries and health clinics, even though the equipment was designed for research universities, medical centers and corporations.
House Republicans have asked Gianato to explain why the state didn't purchase large routers for large facilities, and small ones for locations with only a few computer terminals.
The state purchased 1,064 routers -- all the same model -- in July 2010.
"The consensus was that taxpayers were best served by the use of the unified routers, which given the state's existing administrative resources, would be a more cost-effective approach over the long term in that it facilitates future growth and deployment strategies, configuration management and administration of maintenance and replacement parts," Gianato wrote in a June 28 letter to U.S. Reps. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and John Shimkus, R-Illinois.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office released Gianato's letter to the Gazette this week.
The state used $24 million from a $126.3 million federal economic stimulus grant to purchase the routers, which funnel data, such as email and web pages, from one network to another.
The Cisco series 3945 routers were built to serve a minimum of 500 users, up to tens of thousands of users. But the state has installed the "enterprise-class" routers at public agencies with only a handful of Internet connections. Seventy percent of the routers wound up in schools and libraries.
In his letter, Gianato acknowledged that state officials never tried to find out how many computer terminals were housed at each public facility that ultimately received a router.