Capito Op-Ed Highlights State, Federal Support for Capito Connect Broadband Initiative
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an op-ed for The State Journal, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) today highlighted the wide range of support at both the state and federal levels for her Capito Connect initiative and other efforts to expand broadband access West Virginia.
“Feedback from state and federal partners about the Capito Connect approach and the successes that have been made possible as a result of the initiative illustrate just how much Capito Connect is making an impact,” Senator Capito writes in the op-ed. “Raising awareness and creating a dialogue around this issue with a wide range of partners is part of the reason Capito Connect is a success. It has also helped highlight West Virginia’s connectivity needs, motivating people at all levels of both the public and private sectors to work together to bridge the digital divide.”
The full op-ed is available here and below.
How Capito Connect Is Closing the Digital Divide in West Virginia
By U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)
The State Journal
June 25, 2018
Whether you’re a student trying to do your homework, a small business owner looking to expand or a rural resident who would benefit from telehealth services, broadband access has the ability to open doors to new opportunities for West Virginians.
But, as too many West Virginians know, our state is falling behind when it comes to connectivity.
Affordable and reliable broadband should be easily accessible regardless of where you live. It’s that simple. And for several years, I have been leading efforts to make that a reality. In fact, during my first Senate floor speech, I named increasing broadband access as one of my top priorities for strengthening our state.
That’s why, three years ago, I launched my Capito Connect plan — a roadmap for bringing affordable, high-speed internet access to homes, businesses and classrooms in West Virginia.
In the words of Broadband Enhancement Council Chairman Rob Hinton, it’s a “forward thinking” initiative that “provides awareness, education and resources to communities throughout West Virginia.”
Since launching Capito Connect, we have made significant headway in all of these areas — particularly when it comes to Rural America — by focusing on two main strategies.
The first is making West Virginians aware of the many opportunities and resources available to better connect their communities. The second is by securing additional resources at the federal level to support broadband deployment and improvement programs. By connecting those in need with available resources and expanding the opportunities available, we are making a difference.
Just last year, I helped secure a $3 million Community Connect grant for Barbour, Randolph and Upshur counties, which will provide broadband access for nearly 4,000 residents and employers.
Region VII Planning and Development Council Executive Director Shane Whitehair directly credited the Capito Connect program for bringing these resources to his region and said the West Virginia Regional Councils have seen activity increase in developing and implementing broadband and connectivity projects throughout the state since Capito Connect launched in 2015.
While connecting all of our communities is still the ultimate goal, it’s important that we prioritize the areas that need it the most and target investments in those areas.
Dr. Dino Beckett of Mingo County found that Capito Connect is increasing opportunities for access to financial resources to fund broadband projects in rural areas specifically. He explained that, without efforts like Capito Connect, West Virginia homes, businesses, and classrooms would lack the potential to connect in an affordable way to high-speed broadband.
In addition to state partnerships, I’ve engaged federal partners like the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, and the U.S. Economic Development Administration to raise awareness about funding opportunities.
These federal partners play an important role in the effort to connect our state and Rural America.
Take FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, for example. I’ve had the chance to bring Chairman Pai to the Mountain State several times to highlight our connectivity needs.
One of his trips included a visit to Capon Springs and Farms in Hampshire County. At the time, the resort had no internet access. Chairman Pai recalled that the Capon Springs visit left an impression on him and explained how that experience has motivated him to help close the digital divide.
Almost a year later, the resort was able to develop a solution to its broadband challenges and now they are able to offer internet access to resort guests.
Feedback from state and federal partners about the Capito Connect approach and the successes that have been made possible as a result of the initiative illustrate just how much Capito Connect is making an impact.
Raising awareness and creating a dialogue around this issue with a wide range of partners is part of the reason Capito Connect is a success. It has also helped highlight West Virginia’s connectivity needs, motivating people at all levels of both the public and private sectors to work together to bridge the digital divide.
Connecting West Virginia will not happen overnight, but Capito Connect continues to help us make progress. This goal is not only achievable, but it is critical for our state‘s future.
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