CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Facebook is planning to start construction this year on 275 miles of high-capacity fiber cable through West Virginia as part of an approximately 600-mile “long-haul” route to connect major data centers in Ashburn, Virginia and Columbus, Ohio.
On Monday morning, officials with Facebook joined U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Governor Jim Justice at the State Capitol to make the announcement.
“This is an incredible deal, that’s all there is to it,” said Governor Justice.
“We have truly, truly done something here that’s going to give our citizens what we need so badly — connectivity, connectivity to the world.”
In addition to improving Facebook’s network, Kevin Salvadori, director of network investments for Facebook, said the new fiber route would help local communities by providing opportunities for broadband access that have not been available before now via excess bandwidth.
Once construction begins later this year through Middle Mile Infrastructure, a Facebook subsidiary, it’s expected to take 18 to 24 months to complete the fiber route.
In general, West Virginia’s portion of the route will start at the western West Virginia border and cross the Kanawha Valley before a northwest turn.
“It’s not going to be the easiest build that we’ve ever done, but we’re pretty confident that we can make it happen,” Salvardori said of the terrain.
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said it would “add an important piece of fiber infrastructure to the Appalachia region.”
She discussed the issue with Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, during a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing last fall.
Governor Justice described the planned line as “an artery.”
Regional service providers will be able to tap into it under terms reached with Facebook.
“There haven’t been major artery builds (like this one) in the United States in 20 years,” noted Salvardori. “And West Virginia wasn’t built through 20 years ago.”
No estimated project costs were immediately available.
Justice said the Facebook officials on hand did not want him to talk specifically about that.
“To repair the (State Capitol) Dome we’re working on costs a lot of money,” he said in response to the cost question. “This is a multiple of repairing the Dome several times, so I’ll just leave it at that.”
With new access, Capito said broadband providers would be able to expand middle-mile networks into communities along the route”
“What this helps us do today is to go to our communities, to go to our internet service providers, our municipalities, whoever wants to expand broadband in their area where we don’t have it to say, ‘Look, we’re going to have a major line coming through here,'” Capito said Monday.
“If we’re creative and use our heads and figure out a way to do it, this is going to be like 3/4 of the way down the line in terms of connectivity.
Facebook’s Monday announcement was the second long-haul fiber announcement in West Virginia in less than a year.
In October, Zayo detailed its plans for a fiber route also running from Ashburn, Virginia to Columbus, Ohio via northern West Virginia.
Salvadori said Facebook has partnered with Zayo on projects in the past.
In this case, though, “These two builds are different and in different areas of the state so it’s actually, frankly, a double win for the state to end up with more than one artery,” he said.