Funding announced for broadband expansion in West Virginia

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.”

Kassie Simmons
Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at ksimmons@woay.com.