CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — A project to expand rural broadband in five north-central West Virginia counties will get $18.7 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, officials announced.
The $25 million project will connect more than 6,000 households in Harrison, Doddridge, Lewis, Barbour, and Upshur counties to high-speed internet, news outlets reported. Remaining funds for the project will come from private investment.
Officials who attended the announcement Monday spoke about the value and need for better internet connectivity.
“As the USDA, we understand that broadband is no longer an amenity,” said Kris Warner, West Virginia State Director of the Department of Agriculture. “It is essential for education, healthcare and public safety.”
The Harrison Rural Electrification Association Inc. plans to construct the network over the next few years, CEO Terry Stout said.
“We plan on building it big,” Stout said. “It might be a jumping-off point for other people eventually to expand beyond where we’re going with this grant money.”
Stout said final preparations are still in the work, but it should take around 3 years to complete once work starts.
“Getting this out there is going to be life-changing for a lot of people, I think,” Stout said. “I think it’s going to be as life-changing as what it was to give people electricity.”