West Va. forced to give $2.5M in leftover broadband stimulus funds to the NTIA

West Virginia's efforts to spend nearly $2.5 million in unused broadband stimulus funds have come to an impasse as the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) rejected the state's proposal.

Gale Given, the state's chief technology officer, said in an interview with The Charleston Gazette that the state will need to give back the unspent funds to the federal government.

Previously, the state proposed giving the funding to local network provider Citynet to build a middle mile network that would connect to the national Internet backbone in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Columbus, Ohio. The NTIA rejected those proposals last week.

NTIA said in a letter it sent on Jan. 16 to the West Virginia government that the Citynet proposal did not comply with "programmatic requirements." It added that state officials did not answer questions or provide enough details about the middle mile project and missed the Dec. 31 deadline to use the funding.

However, Given said that the NTIA did not tell her office about a 30-day extension request. "When we did make the request, we were told that it was late, but that that was just a technicality," she said.

Despite this recent development, Jim Martin, Citynet's CEO, said it still could possibly complete the middle mile project without the stimulus funds.

West Virginia's $126 million broadband stimulus award has been the subject of controversy. According to a Legislative Auditor report released in February 2013, the state wasted about $7.9 million by purchasing "oversized" routers for a group of small libraries and other anchor institutions that only had a small amount of Internet connections.

West Virginia is just one of many states that have had problems with using broadband stimulus funding. A similar issue arose in Louisiana where the U.S. Dept. of Commerce revoked its $80 million Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant in October 2011.

For more:
- The Charleston Gazette has this article

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