West Virginia surpasses more than half of Justice’s $1 billion investment goal for broadband expansion

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It’s been “a landmark year” for broadband expansion in West Virginia, according to state officials.

Kelly Workman

Kelly Workman, director of the state Economic Development Broadband Office, told state lawmakers Tuesday the state is halfway toward it’s $1 billion investment goal.

“Our total funding investment that we are tracking in West Virginia is now at $548 million so we are well on our way to to achieving the governor’s $1 billion broadband investment strategy quite possibly within the next year or two,” Workman told members of the Joint Committee on Technology.

Part of that investment includes more than $103 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding that was awarded to projects across West Virginia.

“That break down is $70 million in Capital Projects funding, $33 million in state local fiscal recovery funding, so we have about $125 million to allocate in 2023,” Workman said.

The projects will result in nearly 3,000 miles of new fiber infrastructure to provide high speed internet access to more than 38,000 targeted locations in the state.

Internet services providers have dedicated matching funds, Workman said.

“Some of the projects have a match rate of at least 40 percent, so that is very significant, meaning that we have leveraged an additional $44 million in private investment throughout West Virginia. Total investment is $147 million in 24 projects across the state,” she said.

Workman showed lawmakers their map for ARPA funding and said it will updated once the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) releases its final broadband coverage maps.

“We know that the projects we have funded are just the tip of the iceberg and that many more projects are to come under ARPA and the Infrastructure Act,” Workman said.

Workman said the state plans to make more announcements regarding broadband projects. Her office has also established a Workforce Council specific to broadband that will convene later this month.

Gov. Jim Justice announced in Oct. 2021 the state plans to improve broadband connectivity for 200,000 homes and businesses that don’t have reliable internet.

The 2023 Regular Legislative Session begins Wednesday.

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