Jan. 10, 2014: Broadband tax-dollar waste
W.Va. broadband effort wasted taxpayer dollars
On Nov. 30, your Eric Eyre reported West Virginia might have to return $2.5 million to federal taxpayers from a $126.3 million state broadband expansion project. While the refund would be welcome, Eyre also noted the project is "plagued by allegations of mismanagement and reckless spending." With that said, taxpayers are probably owed more than $2.5 million.
As the state's legislative auditor revealed, managers misspent $7.9 million to $15 million on high-capacity routers for libraries that serve just one or two users at a time. The overspending forced the state to reduce its expansion plans, which means only 590 new facilities will have broadband access, instead of the promised 1,000.
There are more effective ways to expand broadband. West Virginia consumers would have been better served if the state had created incentives for private companies to invest their own money, not taxpayer funds. In Texas, they've drawn multiple private providers.
It's too late to recoup all of the misspent federal funds, but West Virginia's broadband example should be one that other states and communities seek to avoid.
David E. Williams, president, Taxpayers Protection Alliance