CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin directed state officials Thursday to reconsider where they've installed hundreds of high-capacity Internet routers paid for with $24 million in federal stimulus funds.
The directive follows a series of Gazette reports, and state and federal audits that found the state placed oversized routers in hundreds of public facilities. State and federal lawmakers also have slammed the router deal in recent days.
Tomblin plans to appoint a group - made up of technology experts from state government and the private sector - to examine more than 1,100 public facilities across the state and determine whether the sites need the high-powered routers. The devices cost $22,600 each. The review will last 30 days.
"We're going to look at the sites and say, 'It's justified, or it's not justified,'" said Rob Alsop, Tomblin's chief of staff. "We're going to go try and fix what needs to be fixed."
The state already has shipped hundreds of the Cisco 3945 series routers to "community anchor institutions" -- schools, libraries, planning agencies, health centers, State Police detachments, county courthouses, state agencies and other public facilities. Many routers have been installed.
The state is considering swapping out the large routers with smaller ones, or possibly asking for refunds and exchanges from Cisco, Alsop said.
On Thursday, Cisco said it would take back routers if West Virginia can't find an appropriate place to put them.
"The state of West Virginia is an important customer for Cisco, and we are focused on their satisfaction," said John Earnhardt, a Cisco spokesman. "The positive impact of broadband infrastructure on education, job creation and economic development is well established, and we are committed to working with the state to realize these benefits for the people of West Virginia, now and in the future."
Alsop said he talked with Cisco CEO John Chambers, a West Virginia native, and the company also has agreed to extend router warranties an additional three years at no cost.
In July 2010, the state purchased 1,164 Cisco routers, but many remain boxed up in storage. The state paid $8 million for a five-year warranty on the routers. The three-year extension requires Cisco to provide free maintenance on the routers through 2016.
"It's a significant commitment from Cisco," Alsop said. "It helps future-proof some of the issues we have."