- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 7, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A $42 million West Virginia high-speed Internet project funded with federal stimulus funding is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s inspector general, The Charleston Gazette reported.

The inspector general’s investigator-attorney adviser, Brian D. Nysenbaum, notified Gale Given, who heads the state Office of Technology, of the investigation in a Sept. 16 letter. The letter asks state officials to turn over thousands of documents related to a fiber-optic network built by Frontier Communications, the newspaper said in a story (http://bit.ly/1s7kQxx) published in Tuesday’s editions.

Documents sought by the federal government include invoices submitted by Frontier to the state and receipts of all fiber purchases, along with the total number of fiber miles installed, with or without extra spools installed at public facilities.

The federal government also is seeking emails and files of several former and current state officials, including Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato, former state Commerce Secretary Kelley Goes and state Office of Technology administrator John Dunlap.

State officials also were directed to turn over documents explaining why they didn’t ask Frontier to use fiber to connect schools and libraries within the same communities.

The state has until Oct. 17 to turn over the documents.

State officials told the newspaper that they are cooperating with the investigation, and that they found nothing wrong with Frontier’s invoices.

“There were a number of quality-control processes in place that were intended to ensure appropriate billing,” Given told the newspaper.

Frontier spokesman Dan Page said the inspector general also has requested records from the company.

“We will fully comply with the request, which is a standard aspect of the grant-oversight process,” Page told the newspaper.

U.S. Commerce Department spokesman Clark Reid told the newspaper that the office neither confirms nor denies investigations.

The state had asked Frontier in 2010 to install 915 miles of fiber to public facilities across the state. The project later was scaled back to 675 miles but Frontier was paid the entire $42 million initially set aside for the work. Frontier completed the project last year.

A consultant’s report obtained by the Gazette in 2013 concluded that state officials used tens of millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds to help Frontier build a fragmented high-speed Internet network that solely benefits the company. The state hired Vienna, Va.-based ICF International for the report.

Frontier has called the report “worthless,” arguing that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration dismissed similar allegations in 2011.

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette, http://www.wvgazette.com

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