Gov. Jim Justice today announced the preliminary approval of more than $17.4 million in Line Extension Advancement and Development program funds for broadband infrastructure projects throughout the state.
This announcement marks the first round of grants awarded as part of the governor's Billion-Dollar Broadband Strategy, also known as the West Virginia Broadband Investment Plan.
Grant recipients were selected among applicants in the line extension program’s first application round, which closed on Nov. 30, 2021.
This allocation of state funding in the amount of $17,401,764 will leverage an additional $5,140,146 in funds for a total broadband investment of $22,541,910.
The investment will result in nearly 400 miles of new fiber infrastructure and provide broadband connectivity to more than 5,000 homes and businesses in West Virginia.
“We’re going to bring some of the most rural communities in West Virginia into this century by providing access to high-speed internet connectivity for the very first time,” Justice said.
“All West Virginians deserve the convenience that broadband provides. Our students deserve to be able to do their homework, our seniors deserve access to telehealth, and our businesses deserve to be able to reach their customers and suppliers.
“If we want to truly compete on the world stage, we have to expand access to reliable broadband to more and more of our people. That’s exactly what my Billion-Dollar Broadband Strategy is doing,” he added.
“I couldn’t be prouder to see this plan becoming a reality, but today’s announcement is only the beginning. We’re going to continue investing in broadband initiatives all across our state as we work to change the technological landscape of West Virginia forever.”
The line extension program includes two additional application rounds, one of which closed on Dec. 30, 2021, while the other will close on Jan. 30, 2022. Additional approvals will be issued in the coming weeks.
Funding for the line extension program is provided through the West Virginia Legislature’s allocation of $100 million to create the West Virginia Broadband Development Fund, which includes $90 million in funding through the American Rescue Plan Act and $10 million in state general revenue funds.
Funds are also derived through the rescue act's Capital Projects Fund, which includes $136 million for broadband development in West Virginia. The West Virginia Department of Economic Development’s Office of Broadband will administer program funds.
Under the broadband investment plan, projects selected for awards will receive a Preliminary Approval Announcement, which will be published on broadband.wv.gov.
Internet Service Providers other than the applicant will receive an opportunity to submit data to the West Virginia Department of Economic Development demonstrating that the ISP currently offers broadband service at 25/3 Mbps or greater to addresses within the Proposed Project Funded Service Area.
Data submitted must meet all the requirements described in the Process for Soliciting Information Regarding Unserved Areas, which the Department published on July 12, 2021.
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