Broadband Deployment Council was careful

An editorial from The Journal  |         

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — If spending taxpayers’ money at a rapid pace is the test of success for government – as some officials seem to think – West Virginia’s Broadband Deployment Council is a flop.

When the council was established five years ago at then-Gov. Joe Manchin’s request, legislators gave it $5 million to expand access to high-speed Internet service in the Mountain State.

Just $3.7 million in grants have been handed out. The council still has about $800,000 of its original allocation in the bank.

Asked to provide another $5 million, state legislators balked earlier this year. Now, council members are talking about disbanding.

At first glance, snail’s-pace spending by the council may have alienated some legislators who like big headlines involving millions of dollars’ worth of government initiatives.

But the headlines have been big during recent years – and embarassing.

Officials elsewhere in state government moved fast when they obtained $126.3 million in federal “stimulus” money. It turns out they wasted millions of dollars on unnecessarily complex and expensive network routers.

Yes, it is true the council moved very slowly. It did not award any grants until last year.

It also is true Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and legislators scrambled to balance the state budget. Rejecting the council’s $5 million request was an easy call.

But the council’s model may not be a bad idea…

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