CHARLESTON – Gov. Jim Justice joined representatives from Facebook, along with United States Senator Shelley Moore Capito, United States Congresswoman Carol Miller, and other state leaders at Tamarack Monday for a ceremonial groundbreaking event to commemorate the beginning of a major broadband development project that will expand internet infrastructure throughout West Virginia.
Facebook, through its subsidiary Middle Mile Infrastructure, is building a high capacity fiber optic cable network, crossing a portion of West Virginia as part of the company’s ongoing larger network infrastructure build stretching from Virginia to Ohio. The project – which Facebook representatives have titled the New River Project – was originally announced in March 2019.
“I truly believe that we need to take every opportunity that we can to continue connecting West Virginia to the outside world. And increasing access to broadband, through a project of this magnitude, is the perfect way to do that,” Gov. Justice said. “Access to high-speed internet opportunities will allow us to bring in new people and businesses, which will lead to more great jobs for countless hardworking West Virginians.“
The state plans to maximize the benefit of this advanced internet infrastructure by using excess bandwidth on the fiber to expand connectivity into West Virginia communities. This project provides the foundation necessary for additional broadband infrastructure expansion.
“It’s an exciting time for West Virginia and we’re honored to be able to work with a great company like Facebook to make this expansion possible,” Gov. Justice said. “At the end of the day, we want more goodness for our people and to be able to give them access to opportunities. That’s exactly what this project will do.”
Senator Capito and Representative Miller have also been instrumental in making the project a reality in West Virginia.
“Making sure West Virginia has reliable, high-speed internet has been a priority of mine since I was first elected to Congress,” Sen. Capito said. “I’m glad Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg followed through on his commitment he made to me during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing where I asked him to partner with West Virginia on rural fiber deployment.
“Builds like this are extremely important for our rural areas, because they provide these communities with the capacity to offer truly high-speed internet service. 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 groundbreaking brings us another step closer to achieving that goal.”
“Connectivity, for us, is so important,” Rep. Miller said. “This makes such a difference for us; economic development, education, workforce, so many things are directly involved with what we’re doing here today. I just want to thank you all. Thank you, Governor, for being so supportive and pushing to make these things happen.”
Facebook sourcing manager Boh DuPree also spoke at the event, crediting officials with the West Virginia Department of Transportation, West Virginia Department of Commerce, and the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History for getting the project off the ground.
“It takes an enormous amount of teamwork, partnership, and collaboration as we kick off a large project like this. I would like to recognize all the teams that came together,” DuPree said. “I know each of you are devoted to broadband infrastructure in West Virginia and we’re really excited, as Facebook, to be a partner in that mission.
“With the support of all the professionals in West Virginia, we’ve been able to finalize our engineering, we’ve been able to submit permits, and we’re ready to kick of construction, which is extremely exciting.”
Full-scale work on the project is expected to begin within the next 10 to 16 months. From there, the project will take about 18 to 24 months to complete.
The project will provide the opportunity to significantly enhance internet connectivity in West Virginia. The project builds upon West Virginia’s proximity between major internet exchanges and establishes the State as a preferred route for fiber backbone construction. With access to this internet infrastructure, broadband providers can expand middle-mile networks into communities along the route.