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Rural Development partners with local organization to support high-speed internet deployment in rural West Virginia communities

West Virginia Press Association

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.– U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development West Virginia State Director Ryan Thorn today announced that Rural Development is partnering with Generation West Virginia to support high-speed internet services in rural areas of southern West Virginia.

Rural Development is awarding $610,116 through the Broadband Technical Assistance Program, which is funded through President Biden’s historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These funds will be used to promote the expansion of high-speed internet in Lincoln, McDowell, Webster and Fayette counties in West Virginia.

“Having access to affordable, fast, and reliable internet service can create new opportunities for our residents and businesses throughout rural communities,” said Thorn. “This investment is a great example of the Biden Administration’s commitment to investing in rural West Virginia infrastructure and closing the digital divide. I appreciate Generation West Virginia and their partners for taking the initiative and working to address these high-speed internet access challenges in the Mountain State.”

Generation West Virginia, in partnership with Thrasher Engineering and Regional Optical Communications Inc., will utilize funding to provide technical assistance to support the expansion of broadband services in rural areas of southern West Virginia, including developing concrete, viable fiber development projects and securing federal funds for the projects. This project will serve Distressed Energy Communities and Persistent Poverty Communities in West Virginia.

“These funds will ensure Generation West Virginia can provide our most rural communities with important technical assistance, like grant writing and project navigation, so more of our residents can benefit from broadband access,” said Generation West Virginia Executive Director Alex Weld. “In an increasingly digital world, this access is crucial — it serves as a gateway to economic opportunity, education, healthcare, and civic engagement. We appreciate Rural Development’s investment and partnership.”

According to USDA’s 2021 “Rural America at a Glance” report, only 72% of rural residents had moderate- or high-speed broadband available. That percentage is even lower for those in areas that have experienced generational poverty. Building broadband networks in rural areas is difficult — often because of far distances and difficult terrain between customers. These challenges make providing broadband more expensive and time consuming.

The Broadband Technical Assistance Program provides funding to cooperatives and organizations interested in receiving or delivering broadband technical assistance and training. This program promotes the expansion of high-speed internet into rural and Tribal communities by funding feasibility studies, network designs, hiring efforts, application development assistance and more.

Today’s investment is part of a larger $5.2 million announcement made by USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small during a USDA Regional Equity Commission event in McAllen, Texas. A full list of projects from today’s announcement is available online.

Background

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information about Rural Development in West Virginia, visit www.rd.usda.gov/wv.

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