WEST UNION, W.Va. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today joined U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Jim Hubbard, USDA West Virginia State Director Kris Warner, and others to announce a $7,623,751 million broadband investment. Since the launch of Senator Capito’s Capito Connect initiative in 2015, USDA has awarded more than $45 million in grants to extend broadband service and improve telemedicine in West Virginia. Today’s announcement is the fourth ReConnect grant Senator Capito has announced for West Virginia in the last year.
The grant, which is through USDA’s ReConnect program, was awarded to Citynet and will support the buildout of broadband infrastructure to provide gigabit level service over a 205-mile fiber network to residents in Barbour, Doddridge, and Randolph counties. As a result, the project will benefit approximately 6,054 people, 58 farms, 41 businesses, three fire stations, two schools, and two post offices. Earlier this year, Senator Capito advocated for the approval of Citynet’s application.
“Whether it’s broadband or highways, infrastructure is vital to the well-being of West Virginians and the communities within which they live,” Senator Capito said. “I helped create the ReConnect program within the appropriations process because I saw the need to close the digital divide in rural America. I’ve continued to support ReConnect enthusiastically because USDA uniquely understands the difficulties associated with implementing broadband in rural areas and is better equipped to tackle those issues head-on. Today’s announcement will help connect more than 6,000 people in Barbour, Doddridge, and Randolph counties. This is a major step forward in our efforts to better-connect West Virginia thanks in part to my Capito Connect Plan. It also demonstrates how the collaboration of local, state, and federal partners can lead to results that help West Virginia homes and businesses in need. Access and affordability of rural broadband has always been a priority of mine, and I’m grateful to see Secretary Perdue and the Trump administration prioritize this issue.”
“So many rural communities across West Virginia and across the nation need this critical infrastructure to prosper,” USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Hubbard said. “This funding will allow for economic expansion, opportunity, and increased quality of life in these rural communities. I appreciate the leadership of President Trump and Secretary Perdue in prioritizing this critical initiative for rural communities across the country.”
“This investment will bring many benefits to include remote learning and telework capabilities to rural West Virginia,” USDA West Virginia State Director Kris Warner said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA has continued to work untiringly as a strong partner to rural communities because we know that when rural West Virginia thrives, all of America thrives.”
As a leader on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Capito helped create the ReConnect program, and she also worked to secure funds in the FY2018, FY2019, and FY2020 budgets for the program. Through her Capito Connect initiative, Senator Capito has made improving connectivity and closing the digital divide in West Virginia a top priority and has worked to advance efforts and deliver resources to support programs like ReConnect. Since December 2019, Senator Capito has announced similar grants through the USDA ReConnect program for Wetzel, Tyler, and Harrison counties. Today’s announcement is the fourth ReConnect grant for West Virginia.
In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. In December 2018, Agriculture Secretary Perdue announced the rules of the ReConnect program, including how the loans and grants will be awarded to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America. USDA received 146 applications between May 31, 2019, and July 12, 2019, requesting $1.4 billion in funding across all three ReConnect Program funding products: 100 percent loan, 100 percent grant, and loan-grant combinations. USDA is reviewing applications and announcing approved projects on a rolling basis.
These grants, loans and combination funds enable the federal government to partner with the private sector and rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service. Insufficient service is defined as connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload.
In December 2019, after receiving $550 million in additional funds from Congress, Secretary Perdue announced USDA made available up to $200 million for grants, up to $200 million for 50/50 grant/loan combinations, and up to $200 million for low-interest loans. In addition, $100 million was included in the CARES Act for ReConnect. USDA is expected to announce the process for the next round of ReConenct funding in the coming months.
Click here to learn more about the ReConnect program.
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