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11/26/2012
Verizon Still Screwing West Virginia, Even After Leaving State

New Report: Verizon Billing Out Broadband 'Consultants' at $500k
by Karl Bode Monday 26-Nov-2012

West Virginia is once again facing criticism for broadband stimulus spending after a new report highlighted that the state has paid broadband "consultants" millions of dollars despite continuing to be one of the worst connected states in the nation. West Virginia was already under fire after a series of reports in the Charleston Gazette Mail highlighted how the state was using millions in broadband stimulus funding to buy overpowered routers from Verizon at $22,000 a piece -- only to use them in tiny libraries while leaving hundreds of other routers in storage collecting dust.

Now the Gazette Mail is again digging into the state's broadband stimulus spending, noting how the state -- again with "help" from Verizon -- is billing out "consultants" with some exorbitant salaries, whether you live in West Virginia or not:

West Virginia spent $512,000 in federal stimulus funds last year to pay a consultant who's helping to manage the state's high-speed Internet expansion project while living in Colorado. The state is on pace to spend another $329,000 for the consultant's services this year. The state didn't start paying the Denver-based consultant, Perry Rios, through a contract with Verizon until February 2011, even though the state Office of Technology approved Rios' contract in July 2010. He began work on the statewide broadband project two months later. Amusingly, the paper notes that Perry Rios, the man being paid $512,000 a year to head the project manager for the state's broadband expansion, isn't alone in holding that title. Frontier Communications is also paying someone (with stimulus funds) to hold the exact same title.

All of this might be funny if West Virginia wasn't still a broadband backwater, or if Verizon didn't have such a long and illustrious history of contributing to the state's broadband woes. The state has virtually no residential competition after Verizon sold off their assets in the state to Frontier, after years of neglecting the unwanted customers and infrastructure. They're also the worst in the country in terms of a disconnected populace, with recent FCC data showing that 46 percent of the state's residents don't have access to broadband. The one-two punch of a predatory Verizon and an incompetent and/or corrupt state leadership doesn't appear to be helping matters, despite the stimulus plan's good intentions.
 

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