Federal State and Federal Broadband Projects Advance in West Virginia | News, Sports, Jobs
CHARLESTON – West Virginia set to launch broadband expansion plans as soon as the federal government releases funds for the US bailout, while the Federal Communications Commission has announced that Bridgeport-based Citynet will receive support for its rural broadband plans.
West Virginia lawmakers received an update on broadband plans on Sunday during the first day of the October provisional legislative meetings, a day before the start of a special session for the redistribution of Congress and the state and other elements.
The Joint Technology Committee heard testimony from Mitch Carmichael, cabinet secretary at the Department of Economic Development on Sunday afternoon.
Carmichael said there was over $ 478 million in mostly federal funds allocated to the state for broadband expansion, including $ 136 million specifically allocated to West Virginia through the American Rescue Plan Act. The $ 136 million does not count the $ 1.36 billion for the state and the $ 678 million for cities and counties that can also be used for broadband infrastructure through ARPA.
“We would really like to get into these programs. We don’t have the money to do it yet, ”Carmichael said. “At this point there has been no money allocated for broadband expansion. We can’t wait to get started… We’re ready, willing and able to go when you say go.
Carmichael announced four programs in June through the Office of Broadband that will use ARPA broadband funds to focus on reviewing existing trunk extensions, rapid wireless deployment projects, major investments in broadband infrastructure and a corresponding local government / broadband funding incentives.
But the window to start these projects is closing soon due to the approach of winter. Carmichael hopes to have the funds in hand by the end of the year.
“The delays are enormous. The construction season is passing quickly, ”said Carmichael. “We really pushed the federal government to get at least some of these decisions (the Rural Digital Opportunities Fund) made to fund these programs.”
The FCC announced last Thursday that it was ready to allow Citynet to begin work on broadband expansion projects in more than 15 counties as part of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase I auction. ). The FCC will award Citynet $ 53.5 million over 10 years to complete the projects, making Citynet the first company to have its West Virginia plan approved by the FCC.
“More help is on the way for households without broadband,” FCC Acting President Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “This is an important program to connect more Americans to high-speed Internet, and we continue to closely monitor this process to ensure that vendors meet their deployment obligations in areas that need it. ”
Citynet was one of nine companies selected for the RDOF Phase I auction last December. The auction allocated $ 9.2 billion over 10 years to subsidize the construction of gigabit broadband internet in unserved rural areas of the United States.
West Virginia has withdrawn $ 362.1 million among the nine companies for projects in 119,267 census tracts where broadband Internet service is non-existent.
Other companies that received winning bids for projects in West Virginia include Frontier Communications, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., Altice USA (Suddenlink), Commnet Wireless, Digital / PRODIGI based in Bruceton Mills, Bluefield, GigaBeam based in Virginia, Micrologic based in Buckhannon and Shenandoah Cable Television.
The first phase of the two-phase reverse auction will go to non-service areas. The second phase of the auction, which is expected to take place at a later date, will focus on areas with partial internet service.
The two US senators from West Virginia, Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin, released statements last week praising the FCC for approving the Citynet plans. Capito and Manchin have made seeking federal support for broadband expansion a priority.
While Manchin and Capito were happy with the announcement, both raised concerns about the maps being used to determine which areas of the state and nation were not or underserved. The provisions of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the bipartisan hard infrastructure bill passed by the US Senate in August and held hostage by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, address broadband mapping issues.