10:06am: Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval

Meta turns on internet to thousands of homes, businesses in southern West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 13,000 homes, businesses, schools, healthcare and government offices in Logan and Mingo counties now have reliable internet access.

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, joined West Virginia leaders Thursday afternoon to announce their network has been officially been turned on.

The company has been working with U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Gov. Jim Justice and other state leaders to expand broadband in rural areas that need it most.

Michele Kohler, business development manager at Meta, told MetroNews the move will not only provide connectivity, but will also create more jobs and opportunities.

“That area has experienced a lot of loss of employment opportunities as it has shifted away from the primary industry, which was the coal industry,” Kohler said. “We’re focused on small business and the new opportunities that are developing that are a result of the area trying to reinvent itself.”

The completion of the project comes as Gov. Justice announced $20 million in grants for six infrastructure projects as part of his Billion Dollar Broadband Plan.

Kohler said Meta worked with utility companies in West Virginia.

“There was an opportunity to work with Appalachian Power and GigaBeam to provide some engineering expertise for them to design the fiber to the home network,” she said.

In June, Capito visited the Clay Center in Charleston to take part in a Meta Boost training event for local business owners. The goal was for them to learn about ways to enhance their social media presence.

Kohler said small business leaders have been working with Meta separately for ways to boost their online activity.

“Access to reliable internet will impact their ability to attract people to come to the area to visit as well as to keep people in the area because they have the opportunity to work remotely as we’ve seen that change happen as a result of COVID,” she said.

Capito has pushed for more broadband funding with her “Capito Connect” program. She previously told MetroNews the infrastructure law will provide more funding to West Virginians who need internet.

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