CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Broadband services for five counties in the state will be expanding starting next year courtesy of Citynet West Virginia and a multi-million dollar grant from the Federal Communications Commission.
Citynet will build fiber optics to Taylor, Pocahontas, Nicholas, Webster, and parts of Randolph counties with $6.5 million received from the $121 million available in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Connect America Fund Phase II auction.
“What the feds have done is they have identified very rural, what they call high-cost areas,” Jim Martin, President and CEO of Citynet West Virginia said to MetroNews. “Where there is no service today and they recognize that nobody will ever build to those areas unless there is some kind of subsidy.”
The funding given to Citynet will provide services to 898 homes and businesses in the state. The minimum download speed will be 1 gigabit per second with 1,000 megabits of internet.
Martin said $50,000 a month will be allocated over a 10-year period.
His company has a network that goes over Grafton in Taylor County to Philippi in Barbour County but Martin said a network will need to be built on the other side of Grafton over to the Tygart Lake area.
Preliminary engineering on that route has already started, according to Martin. U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., tweeted $1.2 million will go toward expanding services in Taylor County.
Today, the FCC announced that they will invest over $1.2 million to expand broadband in Taylor Co.! https://t.co/KhZ0EBQQE9
— David B. McKinley (@RepMcKinley) August 12, 2019
Martin explained the bidding process in the reverse auction and said some parts of the state did not even receive a bid.
“We only bid on those counties where we have an existing network and based on the amount of money per household, we can make the economics work for us to build to some of those areas,” he said.
“There’s a vast area of West Virginia that nobody even bid on. Because the cost is too high, too great to get there and serve these customers.”
Martin said there will be plenty of motivation for Citynet to get to work under compliances from the FCC. The new program requires a service provider to reach 40 percent of households within the census block within three years, once an order is received a household must be turned on within 10 days, and a letter of credit payment must be turned in to the federal government every year or the FCC could get their money back, according to Martin.
Martin noted this funding is a start to expand broadband service to the entire state. He is hoping for more funding in the future so service can be everywhere.
“There’s a whole lot of areas in the state that probably won’t get served unless there is a lot more money than just this CAF II funding. It’s going to cost a lot more than $10,000 per household to get into some of these really remote areas.”
The $121 million in FCC funding over the next decade is expected to expand broadband to 36,579 unserved rural homes and businesses in 16 states.