Frontier's West Va. fiber dealings under federal scrutiny

The U.S. Commerce Department's inspector general has asked West Virginia officials to turn over invoices and thousands of documents pertaining to how Frontier Communications used federal stimulus funds in connection with a $42 million fiber optic network built in that state.

According to a story in the West Virginia Gazette, the feds are specifically looking into whether Frontier padded invoices and whether top state officials looked the other way when it came to fraudulent billings. As such, the inspector general named state Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato, former state Commerce Secretary Kelley Goes and state Office of Technology administrator John Dunlap among eight current and state officials whose emails should be searched.

At least part of the investigation will cover the fact that the state asked Frontier to install 915 miles of fiber in 2010 but scaled back the project to 675 miles. Frontier charged about $57,800 per mile for fiber construction and was paid the entire $42 million set aside for the project, which was finished last year. Complicating matters even further was testimony at legislative hearings that suggested other Internet providers charge about $30,000 a mile in West Virginia.

The feds also are examining whether Frontier inflated total mileage by installing unneeded maintenance coils of fiber at public facilities. The inspector general has asked for receipts for fiber purchase and the total number of fiber miles with and without the extra spools.

State officials told the newspaper they're cooperating with the investigation and had reviewed Frontier's invoices closely and found nothing wrong.

Gale Given, the current head of the state's Office of Technology, who was notified about the investigation three weeks ago, added that a "number of quality control processes in place … were intended to ensure appropriate billing."

Frontier spokesman Dan Page said the inspector general also requested records from Frontier and that the telco "will fully comply with the request, which is a standard aspect of the grant-oversight process."

For more:
- the West Virginia Gazette has this story

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