State broadband issue put off a month [The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.]
(Dominion Post (Morgantown, WV) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 08--CHARLESTON -- The state's homeland security chief and chief technology officer appeared before a legislative committee Monday afternoon to address concerns about the statewide broadband deployment program -- but most of the committee members failed to show up.
With the lack of a quorum and a brand new, detailed letter before them from the technology chief answering specific questions, the members of the Joint Committee on Technology chose to cover a few broad points, cut the meeting short and put the issue off until next month.
Chief Technology Officer Gail Given provided the eightpage response to 25 questions from the committee. Unfortunately, technical glitches prevented her from also supplying certain maps and attachments -- which "got lost in the ether," she said -- and promised to send them along as soon as possible.
West Virginia also has a $126 million federal Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program (BTOP) grant to expand state broadband service.
The 2009 BTOP stimulus grant is intended to accomplish three things: Build a fiber communications connection between WVU and the Green Bank Observatory; build 12 microwave towers and complete the statewide microwave communications network; and connect 1,064 anchor institutions -- schools, hospitals, libraries, public safety facilities, prisons and jails, and courthouses -- to broadband.
Some realized savings also allowed Morgantown-based WVNET to upgrade its services and reduce its fee. WVNET provides telecommunications and computing services to state agencies, colleges and universities.
But many have questioned the wisdom of the state's decision to use $24 million of the money to buy 1,064 highend Cisco routers -- at $22,600 apiece -- designed for university-size systems when many small schools and libraries could have made do with smaller $500 routers.
Given clarified some misconceptions that about 600 of the anchor institutions weren't going to have fiber optic connections to use the routers. It wasn't properly communicated that those anchors already have fiber. Cost savings were realized because the grant had to pay for only 600 miles of fiber, not 900 as planned.
They also received 100 free routers, and have placed all but 30, she said.
Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, asked a string of questions. "It appears we have orchestrated a train wreck," she said.
Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianoto replied, "We have accomplished everything we set out do."
Some work is behind schedule, but the federal government is planning to give states hit by Hurricane Sandy and the June derecho extensions, he said.
Guthrie said it's been reported that some facilities receiving the routers can't afford to upgrade their service to be able to use them.
Given said that problem applies chiefly to libraries. But negotiations have allowed them to upgrade from a slow 1 Mbps (megabits per second) to 3-5 Mbps. (The national average is 5.8 Mbps, according to reports. South Korea's average is 17.5 Mbps.)
Some entities, she said, found cost savings by switching their phone service from landlines to voice-over-Internet and used the savings to upgrade their circuits.
Guthrie was also concerned that the state used just one vendor -- Cisco -- to supply the routers, and essentially granted Verizon and its West Virginia heir, Frontier, a monopoly in deploying the technology.
Given said that's the way the grant was written. The grants were competitive, and projects were supposed to be "shovel ready," so the state chose to use existing contractors. Verizon was one of only two companies to bid on its portion of the project and won the bid.
Committee co-chair Samuel Cann, D-Harrison, put off further discussion until February, to allow members time to read Givens' full reply, and to allow more members to attend.
(c)2013 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.)
Visit The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.) at www.dominionpost.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]