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Gov. Justice announces strategy to bring high-speed internet to more West Virginia homes

Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 12:29 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice was joined by other state leaders Friday to announce a strategy he says will bring high-speed internet to 200,000 more West Virginia homes and businesses.

The plan will combine funding from federal, state, and local governments, along with matching investments from private-sector partners, to accelerate the expansion of broadband to underserved areas.

“Today I am announcing a one billion dollar broadband strategy. You know its like nothing that we have ever done before. We have a chance and an opportunity now to really, really fix this,” said Gov. Justice Friday. " We are going to change the trajectory of West Virginia in a bigger and better way.”

The Governor’s strategy will add a $236 million state broadband program to $362 million in Federal Communications Commission funding and $120 million from other state and federal sources, for a total of $718 million in government funding expected to be allocated by fall 2022.

The funds will be allocated through competitive programs that draw matching funds from private-sector and local government partners, generating more than $1 billion in total broadband investment.

According to FCC data, at least 30% of the state’s rural homes and businesses currently lack adequate broadband access, leaving West Virginia with one of the nation’s lowest broadband connectivity rates.

“West Virginia students deserve to be able to do their homework,” Gov. Justice said. “Our seniors deserve access to telehealth. Our businesses deserve to be able to reach their customers and suppliers. And all our residents deserve to be able to interact with their government, stay informed as citizens, and do all the hundreds of things that take high-speed internet. Starting today, we’re going to make that possible.”

Thanks to what Gov. Justice called a ‘bold move’, West Virginia now has the highest per-capita rate of RDOF funding in the country at $202 per person, for a total of $362 million.

“West Virginia is now getting the most. I love the most or first,” said Gov. Justice. “The most FCC dollars per capita of any state in America for broadband.”

The strategy’s second major component will be operated by the state Office of Broadband and Broadband Council, using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and state-budget funding. ARPA’s Capital Projects Fund includes $136 million for broadband in West Virginia.

Friday, Governor Justice added two bills to the West Virginia Special Session that would create an additional $90 million appropriation of ARPA State Fiscal Recovery funds for broadband projects, along with a $10 million appropriation of state general revenue funds for wireless broadband projects. These sources will provide $236 million in combined funding for the state’s own competitive broadband projects initiative.

This is a developing story.

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