It should have come as no surprise that federal officials are not going along with a proposal to spend $2.5 million for another high-speed Internet project in West Virginia. Mismanagement of other broadband initiatives left little reason for confidence in this one.
West Virginia already has burned through most of the $126.3 million "stimulus" grant the state received to expand access to high-speed Internet service. Money from the grant not spent by Dec. 31 has to be returned to Washington.
Finding about $2.5 million left in the account, state officials solicited proposals for one last project. They decided to go along with a plan by Citynet, based in Bridgeport, W.Va., to give the state direct connections to the national Internet "backbone." Theoretically, that would allow higher Internet speeds for many Mountain State residents and businesses.
But federal officials have declined to approve the project, for many reasons. Among them was mismanagement of a program to buy hundreds of new computer network routers for public facilities in West Virginia. Millions of dollars were wasted when unnecessarily expensive, complex routers were purchased.
Also cited by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in rejecting the new state plan were a lack of letters of support for the Citynet proposal, an $880,000 shortfall in the plan's budget, and questions about how the project could be completed by Dec. 31.
State officials still hope to answer the NTIA objections and spend the $2.5 million. But agency officials have every reason to be leery of the plan, in view of mismanagement that has plagued the Mountain State's broadband expansion program. If the money is lost, it will be a shame - but West Virginians will have no one but state officials to blame.