CHARLESTON — West Virginia received a like from Facebook Monday as it announced a substantial effort to expand broadband access across the state.
Representatives from Facebook joined Gov. Jim Justice and U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., at a press conference Monday morning in the Governor’s Reception Room.
“It’s going to be probably without question the biggest initiative we’ve had in this state forever,” Justice said.
Facebook plans to build a 275-mile fiber optic cable across West Virginia to connect its data centers. Construction should take place this year and take between 18 and 24 months to complete.
The project will start in Ashburn, Va., and end in Columbus. Broadband providers will be able to tap into the fiber line, giving the state an opportunity to expand middle-mile internet access to rural parts of the state.
“We are delighted today to partner with the state to help make our part in helping bring broadband infrastructure to the state,” said Kevin Salvadori, director of network investments for Facebook. “Broadband internet access clearly drives economic development and it drives jobs.”
Facebook serves 2.7 billion people across the world, including more than 500,000 West Virginians, Salvadori said.
The company has invested more than $100 billion into the U.S. economy and has data centers in 11 states ,which have added $5.8 billion to the nation’s gross national product since 2010.
“Around the country there are still many underserved areas, including here in West Virginia,” Salvadori said. “We’re very excited about our partnership with West Virginia and we’re excited to bring long-haul fiber to this state.”
The network in West Virginia will provide much-needed scalable and resilient connectivity between data centers and providing those Facebook users with the best possible experience, Salvadori said.
The Facebook announcement is the second major broadband announcement in six months. In October, Zayo, a fiber-based communication provider, announced a similar project to connect data centers in Virginia and Ohio with fiber optic cable through West Virginia.
“I can’t thank Facebook enough, I can’t thank Shelley enough,” Justice said. “I can’t thank our commerce people enough. We have truly done something here that is going to give our citizens what we need so badly: connectivity to the world. To be able to really market ourselves and our products and everything and show everybody how great West Virginia truly is.”
It’s a “great thing for us,” Capito said.
“I don’t think it can be undersold. I don’t think it can be under-emphasized,” she said. “It’s something I think will help us do what I’ve been working to do…which is to get connectivity to West Virginia.”
Capito questioned Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg during an October Senate Commerce Committee hearing. Broadband has been a focus of Capito for many years, including the launching of Capito Connect, which connects communities to federal resources for broadband expansion.
“These substantial connectivity investments are absolutely critical to getting business, tourism, agriculture, health care, education aspects of connectivity we want so desperately here and that will help us grow and prosper here in the state,” Capito said.