BRUCETON MILLS, W.Va. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, as well as the co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, today received an update on the status of a fiber installation project, which was funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Community Connect program and made possible through the senator’s Capito Connect initiative. The project will serve approximately 3,500 people and 1,300 households in the proposed funded service area.
The Community Connect Program has historically been a utilized source of funding for broadband projects in West Virginia; however, between 2011 and 2015, there were not only no successful awards in the state, no applications were submitted. Since the launch of the senator’s Capito Connect initiative, both applications and awards for the Community Connect Program have increased. Additionally, since the launch of Capito Connect, Senator Capito has successfully delivered approximately $37 million in funding for residential broadband projects through USDA programs.
“Connecting West Virginia has been and continues to be a top priority of mine. This is exactly why one of my first initiatives in the Senate was launching my Capito Connect program to better connect homes, businesses, schools, and communities,” Senator Capito said. “Since launching Capito Connect, we’ve made significant progress and produced results that are helping to close the digital divide in our state. Today’s visit is a perfect example of this. USDA uniquely understands the difficulties associated with implementing broadband in rural areas and is better equipped to tackle these issues head-on, which is why I continue to support broadband funding programs like Community Connect. This project will connect thousands of residents in this region and contribute to our goal of connecting West Virginia one household at a time.”
On October 7, 2019, USDA Rural Development State Director, Kris Warner, announced that the Preston County Economic Development Authority would be awarded a $3 million Community Connect Grant to construct an 83.4-mile Fiber to-the-Premises (FTTP) network in northern Preston County, which will be installed and operated by PRODIGI. The proposed funded service area has a population of 3,545 and the system passes 1,337 households. The service area includes the towns of Clifton Mills, Hazelton, Lenox, and Cuzzart. This project will provide broadband service that fosters economic growth and delivers enhanced educational, health care, and public safety services to rural customers. A community center will be provided where residents can access the internet free of charge for at least two years.
COMMUNITY CONNECT BACKGROUND:
The USDA Community Connect Program has been in existence since the 1990s and historically has been USDA’s main source of grant funding for residential broadband deployment. Eligibility is limited to areas with service of less than 10/1 Mbps. Annual funding for the Community Connect program is around $30 million and the competition for the funds is very high. The maximum award is $3 million per project and there are usually less than a dozen awards per year. The focus for these projects is on areas of the country where it is economically unfeasible for private providers to extend service without a government subsidy.
Photos from today’s visit are included below:
Senator Capito examines the Community Connect project map.
Senator Capito watches firsthand as internet is connected to the Stemple home.
Senator Capito and her husband Charlie pose with Beverly and Jeff Stemple.
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