While broadband stimulus money has done some great things in a significant number of under-connected communities, West Virginia is getting immense heat this week for the discovery that the state is -- to be polite -- a little incompetent. According to the Sunday-Gazette Mail
, the state took their chunk of broadband stimulus funds and decided to buy a number of $22,000 routers as part of a $24 million contract with Verizon Network Integration. The problem? Many of these routers were installed at tiny libraries -- at least one of which only has four computers:
Nobody told Hurricane librarian Rebecca Elliot that the $22,600 Internet router in the branch library's storage closet was powerful enough to serve an entire college campus. Nobody told Elliot how much the router cost or who paid for it. Workers just showed up and installed the device. They left behind no instructions, no user manual.
The high-end router serves four public computer terminals at the small library in Putnam County. "I don't know much about those kinds of things," Elliot said last week, before politely leaving to help an elderly patron select books. "I just work here."
from the paper notes that roughly 366 of the devices remain boxed up at storage -- and have for several years, slowly eating away at the routers' five year service warranties. The problems are particularly unfortunate as West Virginia has been one of the least connected states in the nation for years, after incumbents like Verizon essentially hung up on the state due to the low profitability involved in wiring more rural markets. The money was a boon to the State, but state officials appear to have not been wearing big boy pants when planning out how exactly to spend it.