Cisco defends sale of high-powered routers
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Cisco Systems, Inc. is standing by its $24 million sale of more than 1,100 routers to the state of West Virginia, calling criticism of the state's purchase "misplaced."
Earlier this month, Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred released an audit saying Cisco officials displayed a "wanton indifference in the interest of the public" when it sold the model 3945 routers to the state Office of Technology.
The routers were purchased in 2010 through the $126 million federal Broadband Technology Opportunity Program stimulus grant, a program designed to increase the availability of high speed Internet across the state.
But critics have said the enterprise-class routers, which are designed to handle more than 200 simultaneous connections, are far more powerful than the state needed.
Allred said the state could have saved up to $15 million if it had purchased less-powerful routers and placed them in more appropriate locations.
He also said Cisco sales representatives and engineers had "a moral responsibility to propose a plan which reasonably complied with Cisco's own engineering standards."
Allred suggested lawmakers should consider possibly banning Cisco from further bids for state contracts.
Cisco spokesman Marc Musgrave emailed an official company statement this week responding to the criticism.
In the statement, the company said it remains committed to meeting the needs of West Virginia and was "actively working" to do that.
"We believe the criticism of the state is misplaced and fails to recognize the forward-looking nature of their vision," the statement said.
The routers were sent to 'Community Anchor Institutions' such as schools, libraries or municipal buildings with the intention that the entire community could use them.
In the statement, Cisco said this would benefit the state for many years to come.
"The positive impact of broadband infrastructure on education, job creation and economic development is well established, and we are committed to working with the state to realize these benefits for the people of West Virginia now and into the future," the statement said.
The model 3945 routers were sent to 457 schools across the state.
According to Allred's audit, only 89 of those schools have 500 or more students, the number required to justify the size of the routers.
The remaining 368 schools, the audit said, would have been better served with smaller routers. The audit also found that none of the 172 libraries that received the routers needed that level of equipment.
Nearly 86 percent of libraries have one or two phone lines, and about the same number offer 20 or fewer Internet connections - far less than the 200 connections the routers were designed to handle.
Although the purchase was made under former-Gov. Joe Manchin's administration, Tomblin administration officials have defended it.
Tomblin chief of staff Rob Alsop said earlier this month the purchase was made with the accommodation of future growth in mind.
Musgrave referred any further questions on the matter to state officials.
Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-4836.