PARKERSBURG - Homes and businesses in West Virginia will benefit as part of an ongoing project to provide broadband Internet access to rural areas of the country, officials said.
On Thursday, United States Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., with Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., announced the allocation of roughly $24.1 million in federal funds to continue construction of a broadband infrastructure in areas that lack high-speed Internet service.
In March, Rockefeller and other members of Congress urged the Federal Communications Commission to release resources from its Connect America Fund to continue the expansion of telecommunications technology to rural areas of the state.
"The FCC is an important partner in the effort to bring broadband infrastructure and high-speed Internet to our rural communities," said Rockefeller, who is chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. "This funding award shows that the agency not only heard our concerns, but they understand that advancing next-generation Internet technology in rural areas, including those in West Virginia, cannot be done without them."
Rockefeller has long made bringing the transformative power of broadband and Internet access to all parts of West Virginia a top priority.
"With help from the FCC, so many more of our families and businesses will soon have the transformative and necessary power of high-speed Internet at their fingertips, opening the doors to many new educational and economic opportunities," he said.
Frontier Communications Manager Dan Page said the telecommunications company recently applied for $28.9 million of the federal funds to expand its high-speed Internet service to more than 47,000 locations in the state.
"Frontier has been working on the expansion of broadband services to rural areas for some time and this funding is part of that process," Page said. "With this funding we will build up broadband access to areas that are hard to serve."
Frontier's 2013, second round Connect America Fund application follows last year's successful application, in which the company accepted more than $34 million to deploy broadband to more than 43,000 high-cost locations in West Virginia by 2015.
In total, if all funding is granted, West Virginia will have received more than $63 million for broadband deployment, which, along with Frontier's own significant capital contribution, will allow Frontier to bring broadband to 90,000 additional locations in West Virginia by 2016.
"We are going to apply this funding where we can and, in the north central region of the state, Frontier plans to focus on Pleasants County in the St. Marys area and Ritchie County," Page said. "This is all part of a strategic plan to provide broadband access to every West Virginian."
Manchin said that by improving Internet access and broadband services in rural parts of the state, West Virginia businesses will have more opportunities to be competitive with advanced economic opportunities.
"For the whole of America to keep a competitive pace in the world marketplace, investments like the FCC's major commitment to families and businesses are essential," said Rahall. "Whether advancing learning, expanding small business markets, researching and developing new products or services, today, broadband access is a basic economic necessity. Leveling the playing field for rural America to compete in the e-economy remains an essential federal role and responsibility."