Legislators get an update on broadband potential in West Virginia

The director of the West Virginia Office of Broadband told lawmakers about progress in connecting areas of the state that have been unserved or underserved.

Kelly Workman

“We know that West Virginia has lagged the nation in both categories,” Kelly Workman, the broadband office’s director, told lawmakers. “These plans fit together to make sure West Virginians have access to broadband connectivity and that they understand its many uses and applications.

Workman’s remarks came during a meeting of the Joint Standing Committee on Technology and Infrastructure during interim legislative meetings.

West Virginia is in line for $1.2 billion in federal funding meant to dramatically increase broadband accessibility. The money is coming through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in 2021. The law included $42.45 billion for broadband expansion.

To draw down the money, West Virginia officials are working through a framework for how to best roll out the expansion. West Virginia has completed a five-year action plan for its connectivity efforts.

Workman also addressed the Digital Equity Act, a separate program of $2.75 billion nationally. The state’s share so far has been about $700,000 in planning funds. The state may gain several million dollars from that source to improve internet connectivity.

“As you know, West Virginia ranks 50th in the nation in broadband connectivity. We definitely have our work cut out for us,” Workman told lawmakers.

“Only 49 percent of the non-residential locations are fully served and 57 percent of residents may find high-quality broadband unaffordable.”

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