West Va. might leave $40M in broadband stimulus funds on the table

West Virginia, like many states that applied for broadband stimulus funding, had high hopes for the $126 million grant it won last year, but now it appears that the state might not be able to spend $30 to $40 million of the grant.

With its $126 million broadband grant, West Virginia planned to wire up the state with over 2,400 miles of fiber, but now state officials say that number may be more like 900 miles.

And while state officials planned to use the grant to extend broadband service to 1,064 community anchor institutions--schools, libraries, hospitals, and public safety agencies--over 300 of those facilities had been connected to fiber already.

But Jimmy Gianato, West Virginia's homeland security chief, said his group believes there are 330 other "replacement locations" including colleges, schools, health clinics and state-owned hospitals that could benefit from a fiber connection. West Virginia officials will send a list of those locations to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is administrating the $126 million grant, for approval.

Still, Jim Martin, President of competitive provider Citynet, that provides business services, isn't convinced of West Virginia's plan.

Instead, Martin believes West Virginia should "rework the grant" and build a "middle mile" fiber network that could offer wholesale services to Citynet and other service providers in the state. However, state officials have dismissed Martin's middle mile idea that several other states--including New York, North Carolina, and Washington state, for example--have adopted.  

For more:
- The Charleston Gazette has this article

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