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Gov. Jim Justice announces billion-dollar broadband strategy for W.Va.

Photo Courtesy of Governor’s Office West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice warned during his Wednesday briefing of a possible mask mandate if current COVID-19 trends don’t slow down.

Gov. Jim Justice today unveiled a strategy Friday to bring broadband 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 high-speed internet to underserved areas of the state.

The 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.

The state Broadband Office estimates that this combination of resources will expand broadband availability to at least 200,000 new locations in West Virginia. 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. Broadband expansion in West Virginia has been hindered by the cost of extending networks into mountainous rural areas.

“This is surely a landmark day for West Virginia,” Justice said. “We’ve been talking for years about how to fix the rural broadband problem. Now we’re finally going to do it.

“West Virginia students deserve to be able to do their homework. 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.”

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