Justice announces $1 billion for new West Virginia broadband strategy

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – West Virginia Governor Jim Justice says a new strategy will help strengthen broadband throughout the Mountain State.

The strategy provides $1 billion for the state to bring broadband to more than 200,000 homes and businesses.

“There is no reason why we have absolutely been so long and so far behind, ” Justice said.

The governor and legislators say FCC data shows West Virginia has one of the nation’s lowest broadband connectivity rates, with at least 30% of rural homes and businesses lacking adequate broadband access.

According to the governor’s office, between $236 million from a state broadband program, $362 million in Federal Communications Commission funding and $120 million from other state and federal sources, officials expect to allocate a total of $718 million in government funding to the strategy by fall 2022. Justice’s office also says the funds will be allocated through “competitive programs” which will draw matching funds from local government and private-sector partners, bringing the total broadband investment to more than $1 billion.

“This is a great day for West Virginia,” U.S. Representative Carol Miller (R-WV) said. “This historic broadband investment will bring more connectivity, commerce and opportunity to our state.”

Justice says key programs for the funding include the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which provides internet service providers funding to extend service to underserved areas, and the West Virginia State Broadband Initiative, which the state’s Office of Broadband and Broadband Council will operate using American Rescue Plan Act and state-budget funding, among other federal and state funding services.

State officials say the West Virginia State Broadband Initiative will also include four award programs that will allocate funding through “a competitive application process.” These include:

  • Line Extension Advancement and Development will award grants to internet service providers to expand existing fiber and cable networks.
  • The GigReady Initiative has allocated more than $500 million from the American Rescue Plan Act Local Fiscal Recovery Fund and will match state funds for local governments that develop projects for their broadband investments.
  • Major Broadband Project Strategies focuses on the large-scale multicounty projects that require additional resources to be quickly implimented.
  • Wireless Internet Networkswill use $10 million in state general revenue funds to expand and improve existing wireless internet networks.

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