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West Virginia Buys $22K Routers With Stimulus, Puts Them In Small Schools 295

DesScorp writes "The Charleston Gazette is reporting that the state of West Virginia has purchased hundred of enterprise class routers from Cisco at over $22,000 dollars apiece via federal stimulus money. The stimulus cash was intended to spread broadband coverage. The problem is that the routers are overkill, and are being placed in small schools and libraries with just a handful of users. The West Virginia Office of Technology warned that the purchase was 'grossly oversized' for the intended uses, but the purchase went through anyway. Curiously, the project is being headed up not by the state's usual authorities on such matters, but by Jimmy Gianato, West Virginia's Homeland Security Chief. In addition to the $24 million contract signed with Verizon Network Integration to provide the routers and maintenance, Gianato asked for additional equipment and services that tacked an additional $2.26 million to the bill. Perhaps the worst part is that hundreds of the routers are sitting in their boxes, unused, two years after the purchase."
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West Virginia Buys $22K Routers With Stimulus, Puts Them In Small Schools

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  • by John.Banister ( 1291556 ) * on Friday May 11, 2012 @03:51PM (#39971779) Homepage
    I've been visiting with my parents here in WV and saw that story in the local paper a few days ago. I have to believe that someone had a buddy getting a commission, because that's how it generally goes here. I remember seeing this map [] a couple weeks before and can't help but think it'd be a better option for spreading broadband.
  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Friday May 11, 2012 @03:57PM (#39971909)

    The routers alone cost the state $7,800 each, but "add-ons" -- additional equipment that came with the devices -- boosted the price tag by $14,800.

    "It's like buying a car," Gianato said. "You get a lot of options with the car."

    An online Cisco retailer was selling new 3945 series routers for $5,800 last week. The routers have a list price of $13,000 each.

    Cisco was the lower of two bidders for the $24 million router sale. Hebron, Ky.-based Pomeroy bid $24.8 million for the 1,064 Cisco routers.

    State officials requested that the devices include a "T1 interface card" that would allow schools, libraries and other sites to use the high-capacity routers with their existing copper-wire T1 broadband connections -- while waiting to hook up to fiber optic cable.

    The adapter cards added $1.08 million to the purchase price.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 11, 2012 @04:32PM (#39972497)

    Because as soon as you get 18000 feet from the CO, you hit a loading coil, which kills DSL. Your mandate would require installing (and powering) DSLAMs essentially within 3 miles of any customer. Plus the back haul routers, power feeds, and other ancillary gear. Add it up, spread it around, you'd blow through the money spent on those WV routers pretty quick.

    Which is not to say WV got the right routers for its needs. The 3945 ISR is an enterprise class machine, with capabilities to do things the WV libraries would never need. Cisco makes a number of SOHO routers that would have been perfect for what WV wanted for a lot less. (And in the article in Ars Technica, a Cisco sales rep essentially said so. That article said it was a reseller - Verizon Network Integration - who sold WV these routers, not Cisco themselves.)

  • by uigrad_2000 ( 398500 ) on Friday May 11, 2012 @04:38PM (#39972629) Homepage Journal

    You have to be kidding. Letting luddite politicians control industries they don't understand is bad for a whole lot of reasons. You, obviously, do not understand DSL.

    When a company makes a product or service available for some people and not others, there's usually a good reason. With DSL, it all has to do with the costs of adding new infrastructure.

    Unlike basic phone lines, DSL performance is extremely sensitive to the distance from the CO [].

    If the phone company is going to charge me $1000/yr for DSL, and place a new CO just for me, then they better be able to get several hundred others in my neighborhood to also get service from the same CO. There's no way that my $1000/yr will pay for it.

    If a mandate went in that all companies had to provide DSL to all possible customers, I guarantee there are some people who would be told that their service would costs thousands per month, because of their location. Now, you may think that this is easy to solve, by just price-fixing the cost also. If feel this way, then you should consider voting for Jimmy Carter this year.

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Friday May 11, 2012 @04:39PM (#39972645) Homepage

    All certainly true. However, small libraries don't need all of that functionality. They could probably get by with a WRT56. It's only a cost savings if you need the functions in the first place.

    And I don't even think that the argument that all of the routers should be the same makes any sense. When you have libraries ranging from one room to a five story building, there isn't going to be a one size fits all.

    I'd perhaps go for a single vendor solution, but not a single device.

  • He sounds like he just doesn't understand how this works, He seems to think a $22,000 router would somehow faster or better than a $500 router even if only 4 people are connected to for basic web browsing. FTA: Gianato said putting the same size router in every school was about "equal opportunity." "We wanted to make sure a student in McDowell County had the same opportunities as a student in Kanawha County or anywhere else," he said. "A student in a school of 200 students should have the same opportunity as a student in a school with 2,000 students."
  • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Friday May 11, 2012 @04:54PM (#39972875)

    In the common parlance and most widely understood definition for this context, it is. []

  • by I Read Good ( 2348294 ) on Friday May 11, 2012 @05:05PM (#39973017)

    No, Byrd was good at being on committees and refusing to sign off on anything that he could possibly get built in WV. There is a long list of government facilities that really have NO business being in WV, but they're here. My favorite example is the United States Coast Guard's Operations Systems Center. West Virginia, being land-locked and all, is an obvious choice for a base that supports a sea-faring service. This USCG station is directly adjacent to a massive IRS facility. In Fairmont, WV there is some NASA IV&V stuff as well as some NOAA facilities. Not to mention CJIS (the largest division of the FBI) in Clarksburg. Sugar Grove may be too old to be Byrd's doing, but the rest are relatively recent. I'm sure the list goes on; these are just the one's that I've personally dealt with.

  • by Wolfraider ( 1065360 ) on Friday May 11, 2012 @05:23PM (#39973257)
    FYI, you can use repeaters to overcome this. Centurylink has used a few repeaters to get DSL out in my area for only $50 a month. Grated the speed is only 1.5mb but I will take that over satellite any day. I live 12 miles from town or around 9 miles from the closest DSLAM.
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday May 11, 2012 @05:37PM (#39973445) Homepage Journal

    Take a look at the bio [] of the guy who is the proximate cause of this debacle. He's got quite a solid background in public safety, but in 2009 when the money bomb dropped he had no experience whatsoever in procuring and managing technology. So why didn't they hire somebody who knew what he was doing? Because they were required to spend the money right away. You can't hire somebody in government right away. It just doesn't happen. But you *can* hire a contractor or vendor.

    I've seen this before. You give a local or state agency with little or no experience with technology a bundle of money to solve some pressing problem like bioterrorism, and you order them to spend it on technology *immediately* or lose it. They don't have time to figure out how to spend the money reasonably because they've got to get the purchase orders cut *right away*. You've basically handed them a golden hot potato.

    If you remember the big debate over the fiscal stimulus, the people you'd have expected to vote against it were grumbling, but they voted for it, provided that the money was channeled into "shovel ready" projects. Think about the assumption behind that, which is that the anticipation of income in the near future has no stimulative effect on current hiring or private spending. I actually think that's backward. People are more likely to invest their own money if their is money coming down the pike; if it has to be spent right now they aren't going to hire or invest, they're just going to pass it on.

    At the time I thought the "shovel ready" emphasis was a recipe for fraud and abuse, because I'd seen the golden hot potato effect at work in the post 9/11 rush to spend money on homeland security. I saw agencies that were competent at their job and well-intentioned, but chronically underfunded suddenly find themselves with a big pot of money to spend on things they had no experience with. Now how do you think *that* was likely to go? Under the circumstances the only way to get rid of the golden hot potato was to hand it to a contractor who had the experience and administrative capability to absorb a lot of federal money quickly. It's a specialized skill; not every vendor has the accounting infrastructure to suck up hundreds of thousands or millions of federal dollars overnight with all the bogus "controls" attached to it.

    I'm convinced the golden hot potato effect is no accident. Somebody always makes a ridiculous profit off these things. The ultimate cause of this problem isn't the guy who's handed the hot potato. It's politicians doing their cronies a favor buy turning a federal grant into something that can't possibly be spent wisely.

  • by ChumpusRex2003 ( 726306 ) on Friday May 11, 2012 @06:12PM (#39973859)

    Yes. The routers are $6k each. However, the purchase contract specified $16k of add-ons for each router.

  • by Matt_R ( 23461 ) on Friday May 11, 2012 @06:45PM (#39974161) Homepage

    DSL is distance limited, dumbass. 15,000 feet from the CO is theoretically possible, but will suck eggs.

    I have a DSL service 20,000 feet from the CO. It syncs at 6 megabit/sec.

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