Give Lawmakers Maps for Project

The abuse legislators at both the state and federal levels sometimes take from the executive branch of government surprises us. One would think those who hold the purse strings, as lawmakers do, would be more inclined to demand accountability.

Some West Virginia legislators complained this week they are not being given information they want regarding part of a $126.2 million technology spending program.

At issue is about one-third of the project, which used federal “stimulus” funds in an effort to increase access to high-speed Internet service in the Mountain State. Specifically, lawmakers want to know more about $42 million in spending to lay new fiber-optic cable and make other improvements to extend broadband service.

Frontier Communications handled most of that project, and company officials insist the state got good value for taxpayers’ money.

But some legislators want to know more. During a meeting of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Technology this week, they said they would like to see detailed maps showing precisely where new fiber-optic cable has been laid.

But such maps have not been provided by Frontier or state technology officials, the lawmakers complained. “I think we’re running into a brick wall that’s being put up,” said Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha.

Lawmakers have very good reasons for wanting more information about the cable project. They are aware of two cases of serious abuses involving the $126.2-million program.

First, of course, was “Routergate,” in which the state spent millions of dollars to buy unnecessarily complex computer network routers.

Second was the fiasco involving construction of new communications towers at various locations in the state. Officials in charge of that spending disobeyed state law.

So legislators who want to see detailed maps of fiber-optic cable extensions are right to want the information. More to the point, they should have the power to insist the maps be produced. If they are not provided, lawmakers should use the power of the purse to prod the executive branch into complying.