USDA announced $7.6-million grant to expand broadband in Randolph, Barbour and Doddridge counties

“This award means so much more than just connecting folks to the internet,” said West Virginia USDA Secretary Kris Warner during a news conference Monday.

Warner, alongside county, state and national leaders, announced the fourth ReConnect Grant to be awarded in West Virginia. The focus of these grants is to expand broadband access in rural areas of the United States.

“This is just seven-million of the over 40-million that the Reconnect Program through the USDA has deployed here in West Virginia,” said Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R).

The grant is another success in Sen. Capito’s broadband initiative 'Capito Connect."

“What I think is really tremendous about this program is the collaboration with the Department of Education here locally in Doddridge County with the County Commission. Every child is going to have broadband deployed to their home. That is going to be the first county in the state that is going to be able to say that,” said Sen. Capito.

Broadband in Doddridge County has become essential this month as the county shut down schools on October 7th and, as of this week, is now classified a red county by the WVDE.

“It is an issue of equity. to reach everybody, so everybody has access to distance learning, access to business opportunities, access to telemedicine all of those services that are essential today,” said Jim Hubbard, the USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment.

The Doddridge County Board of Education is leading the drive to ensure students are able to access the internet. Staff instituted free wifi hubs in the parking lots of the county’s schools and worked with Doddridge County Commissioners to apply for this grant.

“Our board is committed also, to paying for every student’s internet. So that way we will ensure that they have internet and cost won’t be a factor for families,” said Superintendent Adam Cheeseman.

He adds that the money for that commitment will come from an excess levy scheduled for vote later this year.

Monday’s ReConnect grant will be awarded to CityNet to build an estimated 205 miles of fiber optic network through Randolph, Barbour and Doddridge counties.

The announcement was held underneath a tent outside of the Doddridge County Board of Education Monday morning.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael, Secretary of State Mac Warner, Representative David McKinley, and representatives from Senator Joe Manchin’s office were in attendance.

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