Routers bought for W.Va. courthouses in storage

CHARLESTON (AP) — Four years after Internet routers were purchased for each county courthouse in West Virginia, many are back in state storage.

The Charleston Gazette reports that the routers are being replaced by much more expensive ones bought with federal stimulus funds.

In 2008 the state Tax Department spent $258,000 on 55 routers to funnel data from the courthouses to Charleston because the state Supreme Court wanted its own network. A dozen of them were installed.

In 2010, the state used $24 million in stimulus funds to buy new routers for public facilities. A month later, the state Office of Technology ordered the Tax Department to hand over 43 of the 55 routers that still hadn’t been installed. Most of those are now in storage in a basement at the state Capitol complex.

The stimulus-funded routers have more capabilities than those bought by the Tax Department, said state Homeland Security Chief Jimmy Gianato. He is overseeing the state’s ambitious plan to use $126 million in stimulus funding to create a high-capacity broadband network.

Courthouses “can’t get the bandwidth through (the Tax Department) router,” Gianato said. “With the new routers and the fiber they can run the bandwidth through those routers and pay one fee and distribute it through the entire facility.”

The new routers were requested by Secretary of State Natalie Tennant’s office, which collects voter registration data and piggybacks on the Tax Department’s network, Gianato said.

WVNET, the state’s Internet services agency, is removing the Tax Department routers already installed at courthouses. The state plans to distribute the unused courthouse routers to agencies as “need arises,” said Diane Holley-Brown, a technology office spokeswoman.

“The remaining routers will be used for short- and long-term projects, and be used as replacements for routers that may fail,” she said. “The Office of Technology also plans to keep three or four routers in inventory for emergencies. It is expected that the remaining routers in our possession will be deployed in the upcoming months.”

Agencies must pay $500 apiece for the unused routers and several have already received them, among them the state Commission on the Deaf and West Virginia Board of Medicine.

Last month Gianato responded to a congressional subcommittee’s questions about the purchase of 1,064 high-capacity Cisco routers for locations including small schools and libraries, following articles in The Charleston Gazette regarding those purchases.

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