$7.6M ReConnect grant to expand broadband

U.S. Congressman David McKinley, R-W.Va., and U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito joined Jim Hubbard, U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for National Resources and Environment, and others to announce $7.6 million in broadband investment on Monday morning.

The funding will provide broadband service in rural and unserved communities in West Virginia.

The investment is part of the $550 million Congress allocated to the second round of the ReConnect Program.

“I helped create the ReConnect program within the appropriations process because I saw the need to close the digital divide in rural America. I’ve continued to support ReConnect enthusiastically because USDA uniquely understands the difficulties associated with implementing broadband in rural areas and is better equipped to tackle those issues head-on,” Capito said.

Citynet LLC will use a $7.6 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network, which will connect 6,054 people, 58 farms, 41 businesses, three fire stations, two public schools and two post offices to high-speed broadband internet in Barbour, Randolph, Webster and Doddridge counties.

“This crucial funding will help equip local communities, fire stations, schools, farms and small businesses with high-speed internet service. As we work to close the digital divide in West Virginia and across the country, this is a positive step in the right direction.” said McKinley.

Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act on March 23, 2018. The act appropriated $600 million to the USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America.

The purpose of the act enables the federal government to partner with the private sector and rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service.

Insufficient service is defined as connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload.

In the first round of the program, the USDA invested $698 million to bring high-speed broadband e-Connectivity to approximately 167,000 households, 17,000 rural small businesses/farms and more than 500 health care centers, educational facilities and critical community facilities located in 33 states.

“West Virginians need reliable broadband access to complete their homework, attend telehealth appointments, apply for jobs, support their small businesses, and so much more. It’s vital we expand broadband access across the state and I won’t stop fighting to ensure West Virginia has a fair shot at federal funding to help bring broadband to all West Virginians.” said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in a press release.

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