Facebook to invest in broadband infrastructure in West Virginia

Social media giant Facebook said Monday it’s footing the bill for 275 miles of fiber optic cable running through West Virginia. 

The company announced the investment at a news conference in tandem with Gov. Jim Justice and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

Kevin Salvadori, a Facebook spokesman, said the “long haul fiber” will act as an “interstate for the internet.” 

“It’s going to provide connectivity to major internet exchanges around the U.S.,” he said. “That critical path is going to connect to some very important points.” 

Justice declined to share, at the request of Facebook, the exact dollar amount the company is providing for the project. 

He did, however, compare it to a multiplier of the cost of Capitol dome renovations, which were initially projected to cost about $11 million. 

“They don’t really want me to say that,” he said of a specific dollar amount. “But I think it would be fair to say this. To repair the dome that we’re working on cost a lot of money. This is a multiple of repairing the dome several times. I’ll just leave it at that.” 

Salvadori said the lines will be built within the next 18 to 24 months. He said along with benefiting local business and helping expand broadband access in the state, the lines will run through West Virginia to connect Facebook’s data centers in Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina. 

“West Virginia is a really important connectivity point for that infrastructure, so this is basically going to be a very, very high capacity fiber cable that we build in West Virginia to connect those things,” he said. 

Justice praised the decision. 

“It’s going to be probably, without question, the biggest initiative that we’ve had in the state in forever,” he said. 

Salvadori said the investment is a step in the direction of expanded broadband access, but will have to come in conjunction with other sources. 

“I think solving broadband connectivity, there’s not a silver bullet, there’s not a single solution to it,” he said. “You need actual access that comes local to people, you need middle-mile infrastructure and then you need major connectivity. Frankly, there haven’t been major artery builds in the United States in 20 years. This is one of the first significant builds in that period of time, and West Virginia wasn’t built through 20 years ago.” 

Capito expressed her elation as well. 

“Today’s announcement with Facebook is an important step toward ensuring our state has the critical infrastructure to support broadband deployment, and I know it will help so many in our state, especially the rural communities that are unserved,” she said in a news release. “I’m excited for what a fully connected West Virginia can offer the rest of the country, as well as what it can do for the future of our state. Today’s announcement brings us another step closer to achieving that goal."

In October, broadband network operator Zayo Group announced it will build a fiber network route crossing 200 miles of West Virginia. 

Salvadori said the two builds are in different parts of the state.

By:  Jake Zuckerman
Source: Charleston Gazette Mail