(03/26/2013)
West Virginia government officials used tens of millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds to help Frontier Communications build a fragmented high-speed Internet network across the state that solely benefited Frontier, according to a consultant hired by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's administration.

The consulting firm, ICF International, found that West Virginia's $126.3 million statewide broadband expansion project created an "unintended monopoly" and "unusable network except for Frontier," a story issued by Charleston Gazette reporter Eric Eyre.

The ICF report said the project has "no practical use for the public or competition." The $118,000 report was concealed from the public for nearly a year.

The ICF report was obtained from an inside source, with state officials denying its release to the Gazette through a Freedom of Information request, saying it was an "internal memo."

The report contends that Tomblin aides and former governor Manchin officials squandered millions of dollars of stimulus money that only benefited Frontier.

Frontier has called the report, "worthless, inaccurate and stale comments."

The state is using $40 million of the stimulus funds to pay Frontier to install more than 500 miles of fiber-optic cable statewide.

The ICF report also accused Frontier of subverting federal regulations and driving up construction costs by "gold-plating" facilities, installing up to six times more strands of fiber than needed at schools, libraries and other public buildings in West Virginia.

The report alleges "inadequate Frontier planning, reporting, purchasing and invoicing" has hampered the broadband project, according to the Gazette story.

Last week, reporter Eric Eyre revealed that West Virginia officials buried the study on how they screwed up broadband development.

West Virginia is one of the worst connected states in the nation, something that was supposed to be helped by a $126.3-million federal stimulus grant.

The state doled out much of the stimulus money to Verizon, Cisco and Fairpoint, who convinced corrupt or incompetent state officials to spend it on ridiculously overpriced, overpowered and unused routers, and several ridiculously overpaid consultants who haven't actually accomplished anything, Eyre reported.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's administration abruptly cancelled a statewide "broadband summit."

Despite Frontier press releases, it is unclear how the state's rural areas will have services that represent real broadband speeds.


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