CHARLESTON — Construction of a new fiberoptic network is slated to start at the beginning of 2019, connecting Columbus, Ohio, and Ashburn, Virginia, by crossing the Mountain State, officials announced on Thursday.
The announcement was made by Gov. Jim Justice, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson.
Jack Waters, chief technology officer for fiber solutions at Zayo, described the massive project.
“The way we used to do it is we picked where the people lived — the big, big markets — and connect them up,” Waters said. “It turns out that these two end points are actually where the new economy is –where the web scale companies have built data centers and other huge operations in Northern Virginia, and that’s really what we’re connecting via this route.”
Zayo is a fiber-based communications provider, making its first investment in the state, Waters, a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University, said.
“We’re excited for the potential of this state,” Waters said. “Fiber helps connect the underserved and bridge the digital divide. We expect this network will ultimately support broadband internet providers and expand to rural areas across the state. We are strong supporters of affordable broadband internet for everyone.”
Upon commencement of construction on the fiber connection between Ohio and Virginia in January, Waters said it would take between 24 and 36 months to complete.
“We’re off to a great start thanks to our partnership with the state,”Waters said. “You’ve been instrumental in helping us navigate the various agencies we need to work with to get construction launched. Thank you for the warm welcome.”
While Waters did not disclose how much the project would cost, Justice during the press conference Thursday said Zayo is making a multi-million-dollar investment in West Virginia. The project will involve installing 200 miles of fiberoptic cable through the middle of the state, starting in the Mid-Ohio Valley, through the heart of the High Technology Corridor and entering Virginia through the Potomac Highlands.
“This is a monstrous investment in West Virginia,” Justice said. “The network will serve as a backbone to additional broadband expansion.”
Justice said the state has given Zayo access to rights of way for the fiber project and in return, the state would be given access to the fiber. Zayo also plans to hire local workers for the construction project.
“I’m a long ways from being an expert on broadband, but I have enough sense to know that the kids of today have got to be connected,” Justice said. “High speed connectivity: that’s the words that are really the keys.”
Capito, who has made broadband expansion a key part of her time in Congress, said the Zayo announcement would help small businesses in parts of the state who have spotty access to broadband. Capito said greater access to internet leads to a better economy, improved educational outcomes, telemedicine, agriculture and tourism.
“What Zayo has announced today is really an enormous shot in the arm,” Capito said. “It’s going to be great news for the part of our state…that’s really difficult to serve and has the least deployment of broadband in the state.”
Carmichael, an executive at phone and internet provider CityNet and a former executive at Frontier Communications, said Zayo’s investment is another example of West Virginia’s comeback story.
“They’ve told me how welcoming West Virginia has been for their investment opportunity and the ability to expand business in our state,”Carmichael said. “This is a testament to the changes that have been occurring in our state over the last several years.”