High School Football

Federal officials say $1.2 billion high-speed internet rollout will reach everyone in West Virginia

Federal officials emphasize that the aim of $1.2 billion aimed at West Virginia for broadband expansion is to ensure that every nook and cranny of the mountainous, rural state is covered.

Gina Raimondo

“Everyone. When we say everyone we mean everyone,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Monday in response to a MetroNews question about the ambition for coverage.

West Virginia’s internet coverage is notoriously patchy. But Monday’s national announcement of a $42.5 billion broadband expansion plan is largely based on need, as federal officials were pushed to produce accurate maps of unserved and underserved areas.

So West Virginia’s $1.2 billion is ahead of some significantly larger states like New York, which is set to receive $664 million.

West Virginia is among the 19 states receiving more than a billion dollars in funding. Texas received the most with a $3.3 billion allocation, followed by California with $1.8 billion.

“With this money, your $1.2 billion, to connect about 300,000 folks in West Virginia, it is plenty of money to get to everyone,” Raimando said in a briefing Monday afternoon with Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

“And we mean the small farm or family at the end of a long road in rural West Virginia because we’re going to subsidize the companies to make that infrastructure investment. And then we’re going to hold them accountable to provide the internet at the price a family can afford.”

The money is coming through Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in 2021. The law included billions of dollars for broadband expansion.

Manchin and Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. voted for the bill. Congressman Alex Mooney, now running for Senate, and Congresswoman Carol Miller voted against it. 

Joe Manchin

Manchin compared the high-speed internet initiative to the Rural Electrification efforts of the 1930s.

“This is a game changer for our state,” Manchin said Monday afternoon. “So, yes, we’re intending for every household to have internet service.”

Before the broadband could roll out to more places, the federal government worked to make sure it will be going to the right places, those that are underserved or unserved.

Senators pushed the Federal Communications Commission to ensure national broadband maps provide an accurate, reliable picture of availability across the nation. Manchin  formally challenged the initial mapping by the FCC over several years.

Early this month, the FCC released an update to its broadband maps adding an additional 1 million locations, including 330,000 new homes and businesses. The additions to the map now show more than 8.3 million addresses across the U.S. that have no or limited access to high-speed broadband internet.

“We’ve had good support all the way through and, basically, the citizens (have been) getting involved. They told you the need they have and the desire to be able to have internet service,” Manchin said.

“So they’re willing to take their time and make the effort to do this for us and really put a lot of pressure on all of us to step up to the plate.”

Capito, speaking on MetroNews’ “Talkline” today, agreed that the federal dollars should be enough to reach each community in West Virginia.

“The good news here for us is, if this doesn’t get every single person connected adequately, shame on everybody,” Capito said. “But this will do it. We are totally poised for this.”

Capito agreed on the importance of pushing for accurate maps of broadband accessibility.

“The mapping is so critical because these are aimed at unserved and underserved areas. You can have service, but if it’s not adequate then it’s counted as unserved and that’s what this money is going to target.”

President Joe Biden

President Biden announced the rollout of the high-speed internet funding late Monday morning, pledging that the entire country will have access by 2030.

“These investments will help all Americans,” he said. “We’re not going to leave anyone behind.”

Biden’s White House announcement continued by describing the biggest investment in high-speed internet ever.

“Because for today’s economy to work for everyone,” Biden said, “internet access is just as important as electricity, or water, or other basic services.”

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