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Cisco looking to make things right with West Virginia

Offers to "take back" routers at center of contract controversy, extend warranties free-of-charge

Cisco has offered to "take back" routers it sold to West Virginia if the state finds they are inappropriate for its needs, according to this post on wvgazette.com. The offer is in response to a state auditor's finding that West Virginia wasted $8 million - and perhaps as much as $15 million - in acquiring 1,164 ISR model 3945 branch routers from Cisco in 2010 for $24 million in federal stimulus funds, or over $20,000 per router.

The 3945s are at the top of the ISR G2 line, with a starting price of $9,500.

"The state of West Virginia is an important customer for Cisco, and we are focused on their satisfaction," a Cisco spokesman is quoted as saying in the wvgazette.com post. "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 in the future."

Cisco has also agreed to extend router warranties an additional three years at no cost, wvgazette.com reports.

[YOU GET WHAT YOU DON'T PAY FOR: Country's largest 4-year university expels Cisco, saves $100 million]

The auditor found that hundreds of sites around the state - libraries, schools and State Police facilities - could have been just as suitably served with lower-end, less expensive routers. The auditor concluded that state officials involved in the purchase employed a "legally unauthorized" process to obtain the equipment and a reliance on Cisco "goodwill" to enable it.

The auditor also accused Cisco of "a wanton indifference" to the public interest in allowing the state to buy millions of dollars more router capacity than it needed. The audit said West Virginia should consider barring Cisco from doing business with the state.

West Virginia is the most recent example of enterprises entrusting the definition of their networking requirements to Cisco and then perhaps significantly overpaying -- in this instance, among others, with taxpayer dollars -- by doing so.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin instructed state officials to review where the 3945s are installed and determine whether the sites - many of which are rural libraries and schools with just a few computers needing Internet access - need a $20,000+ router. The 3RU 3945s are designed for medium-to-large branch office sites.

The review will be conducted by state government and private sector technology officials and will last 30 days, wvgazette.com reports. After that, the governor will appoint a task force, which will include a Cisco representative, to help state facilities fully utilize the 3945s. The task force will report its findings by Jan. 1, 2014, according to wvgazette.com.

"We're going to go try and fix what needs to be fixed," Tomblin's chief of staff told the site.

The state is considering swapping out the large routers with smaller ones, or possibly asking for refunds and exchanges from Cisco.  

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