October 9, 2013
If the Guinness Book of World Records has a category for the worst bureaucratic bungles, the top spot might go to West Virginia’s pathetic handling of the statewide broadband network that was funded by federal tax money.
For more than a year, Statehouse reporter Eric Eyre revealed how state officials stupidly installed monster-size $22,000 routers in tiny public facilities where $100 units could have transmitted data to computers.
Earlier this year, Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred confirmed that between $8 million and $15 million in U.S. funds was wasted on the routers. Commendably, the vendor that supplied the wireless devices — Cisco Systems, headed by Charleston native John Chambers — offered to correct the botch and give West Virginia extra years of free warranty.
Next, Eyre disclosed that outside examiners concluded that West Virginia’s broadband system was supposed to be an “open-access network” available to all servers, but it became mostly a “private” web giving Frontier Communications an “unintended monopoly.”
Taxpayers paid $118,000 for this outside analysis, but the Tomblin administration hid it from the public for nearly a year, until Eyre unearthed it. Frontier issued an angry denial.
One legislator, Delegate Gary Howell, R-Mineral, asked whether this mess should be referred to U.S. attorneys and the FBI for a criminal investigation. Allred replied: “What they did definitely was illegal, in our opinion, but whether there was a crime, that’s really up to the U.S. prosecutor to decide, not for us.”
Well, we hope U.S. prosecutors make a decision about this travesty. West Virginians have lived through a seemingly endless parade of humiliating revelations. Now they deserve to know whether the fiasco was caused by incompetence or something worse.
— Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette