06.20.17

Three unserved West Virginia counties to get broadband

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., announced a $3 million grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to bring broadband internet service to more than 3,500 households and businesses in three West Virginia counties.

Capito's office said the grant, plus $450,000 in local matching funds, will bring internet service to unserved areas of Barbour, Randolph and Upshur counties.

“Connecting West Virginia has always been top priorities of mine, and I’m thrilled that efforts like my Capito Connect plan are producing results that will help close the digital divide in our state,” Capito said. “This funding is a huge win for West Virginia and the residents and businesses in the tri-county region. I can’t wait to see the economic growth and opportunity this project will bring to our state, and I will continue working to provide similar opportunities across West Virginia.”

In 2015, Capito announced the Capito Connect plan to encourage broadband expansion in the state. Grant money can be used for constructing, acquiring or leasing property or lands used to deploy broadband service; roviding broadband service free of charge for two years to facilities such as public schools, fire stations and public libraries; and improving, expanding, constructing or acquiring a community center to provide online access to the public.

“Today’s announcement is great news for the citizens of Barbour, Randolph and Upshur counties,” said Robert Morris, executive director of the Randolph County Development Authority and the West Virginia Wood Technology Center. “These funds will provide this region of the state with access to true high speed broadband service for residents and businesses.

"Access to broadband is a necessity for economic development and improving the quality of life for our citizens," Morris said. "Randolph County is a gateway to many of our state’s most beautiful scenic attractions and providing visitors with the ability to remain connected will help grow our tourism economy. Senator Capito, through her Capito Connect Plan, was instrumental in helping the Central West Virginia Development Authority apply and secure these funds."

During the 2017 regular session of the West Virginia Legislature, lawmakers passed a bill that would allow communities to set up broadband cooperatives to land federal grant money for internet expansion. The law also would expand the authority of the state Broadband Council to plan and monitor internet growth, and streamline the process for expanding broadband service.


By:  Rusty Marks
Source: The State Journal