By SARAH GOODRICH
BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — Buckhannon-Upshur High School students and local officials gathered in the high school’s auditorium Monday as Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va, discussed the Community-Oriented Connecting Broadband Grant.
The Central West Virginia Development Association received the $3 million grant, which will provide accessible broadband to 3,600 households and businesses in Upshur, Barbour and Randolph counties.
“School-aged children in the tri-county area impacted by this grant will finally have an opportunity for equal access to digital learning resources outside of school environment,” explained Roy Wager, Upshur County Schools superintendent.
Rob Hinton, director for the Upshur County Development Authority, discussed the importance that Capito has had within the broadband realm.
“If it wasn’t for Capito Connect, and it wasn’t for her leadership and her drive, a lot of these things wouldn’t be happening around the state, and there’s a lot of things happening around the state,” he said.
When Capito first got into the Senate, she said she realized 56 percent of the state did not have high speed internet, which inspired the creation of the Capito Connect Plan. The plan is designed to bring affordable, high-speed internet access to rural West Virginia.
Hinton introduced Capito, who spoke about the partnerships and significance of the broadband grant for the three counties.
She explained the elements that accessible broadband offers to those in rural areas, including news, education, commerce and emergency notifications.
“No one should be left behind,” she said about those who miss out on emergency notifications due to slow or no internet access.
Capito added, “This is acknowledging that the world is changing, the world’s economy is changing and breakthroughs in technology are occurring every day that will transfer how we do business.”
With affordable internet access, Capito suggested more residents may feel the desire to stay in state with their businesses or education.
“This is a big hit, and a big beginning for Capito Connect, but also for the entire state of West Virginia because there are still more areas that lack broadband,” she noted.
Anne Hazlett, assistant to the secretary for Rural Development of Agriculture, was in attendance, and discussed how essential affordable, quality broadband is to rural communities.
“We know that modern infrastructure is such a necessity, not an amenity, truly a necessity for communities, like Upshur County, to prosper,” she said.
In terms of economy growth and prospering through education, Hazlett said infrastructure is “all about connections.”
“So to really enjoy economic opportunity and the quality of life in a modern area, real communities need connections above all,” she said
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