CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – The American Electric Power Foundation is donating nearly $70,000 to create free WiFi hotspots at multiple locations across Appalachian Power’s Virginia and West Virginia service area. The hotspots are being put in place especially so that students can easily access education materials and classroom assignments from their laptops, iPads or phones if they don’t have internet access at home.
“The AEP Foundation has already donated $288,000 in West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee to support specific COVID-19 relief efforts,” said Chris Beam, Appalachian Power president and COO. “Now we’re looking past the initial donations ─ which were primarily to support food pantries and basic human needs ─ to what else is needed in our communities. Lack of broadband access for students rose to the top.
“A large part of our territory is rural and lacks widespread internet access,” he said. “Funding from the AEP Foundation will help individuals and families without broadband access in their home stay connected. This initiative will help level the playing field for our students in rural parts of West Virginia and Virginia. We’ll be better prepared for the future of education, whatever it holds.”
The United Way of Southwest Virginia and United Way of Central West Virginia will coordinate funding for the program. The funds will be used to pay local internet service providers for the necessary equipment and to install and maintain the hotspots and provide internet service.
WiFi sites will be located at select schools and community centers, along with other locations. Appalachian Power worked with local internet service providers to identify the best locations in underserved areas for the hotspots.
New WiFi hotspots will be established in 26 locations in Virginia in Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Franklin, Giles, Grayson, Patrick, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties. In West Virginia, approximately 23 WiFi hotspots will be created in Jackson, Lincoln, Mason, and Wyoming counties. Users will be able to stay in their vehicles and access the internet, which will allow them to follow social distancing guidelines.