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West Virginia Could Lose Federal Broadband Funds
CivSource has been tracking West Virginia’s troubled broadband expansion project, which is once again in danger of losing federal funds. The state applied for and was awarded money to expand and improve broadband access throughout the state, however, initial plans included locations that already had access. Subsequent revisions have been approved by federal program administrators, but leftover funds may have to be sent back.
West Virginia has about $2.5 million in unspent federal broadband dollars, but the fact that the state has leftover funds at all is surprising given previous investigations by both state and federal administrators for overpaying for equipment. According to the Charleston Gazette, the NTIA denied a proposal that would use the leftover money for a project proposed by Citynet, a telecommunications provider in the state. The report follows an earlier one that said that Citynet CEO Jim Martin asked the state to stop paying Frontier Communications outstanding invoices for broadband expansion work it already did.
Martin wants a full audit of the work done by Frontier, which has already been audited a few times over the course of its work. Those audits looked at deployment lag and cost overruns, finding evidence of both. Still, it looked like Frontier was caught up and the Gazette notes that Cisco agreed to take back a significant portion of unused routers. West Virginia still owes Frontier approximately $26 million.
The Citynet proposal would halt any further activity with Frontier, including payments, and put remaining funds into setting up GigaPop facilities. NTIA denied this proposal saying that build out timelines looked unrealistic, and that the application lacked the appropriate supporting documents. The company has appealed the denial, but so far NTIA hasn’t budged. If West Virginia fails to meet already approved deadlines and expansion milestones it will have to give back millions of dollars in stimulus funds. Watch this space.