Broadband Plan for the Exclusive Benefit of West Virginia Without Current Internet Access | VM News

Speaking at a virtual panel discussion hosted by the West Virginia Press Association, Carmichael said the plan will neither improve nor expand internet access in areas that already have it.

“This money can only be used to serve those who don’t have broadband service,” he said. “We are absolutely going to those currently unserved, as defined by the FCC, which are 25 down, three megabits more.”

State officials did not use the FCC’s notoriously inaccurate broadband access maps to determine which areas currently have and do not have broadband access, Carmichael said.

“We know exactly in this state who has broadband and who doesn’t,” he said. “We didn’t take the FCC at its word. We are mapping it correctly and with input from citizens across West Virginia passing the speed tests. “

The initiative, which was called “Big Jim’s Broadband Plan for Prosperity” when it was first announced last October, aims to bring broadband availability to 200,000 additional West Virginia homes and businesses.

The plan will combine funding from federal, state and local governments – along with matching investments from private sector partners – to accelerate the expansion of high-speed internet in underserved areas of the state, according to released information. by the office of Governor Jim Justice.

The strategy will add a $ 236 million state broadband program to $ 362 million in funding from the Federal Communications Commission and $ 120 million from other state and federal sources, for a total of $ 718 million in funding. government which should be allocated by fall 2022.

Funds will be allocated through competitive programs that attract matching funds from private sector partners and local governments, generating more than $ 1 billion in total broadband investments.

The state plans to conduct post-award audits to ensure funds are spent correctly, Carmichael said.

“The governor has been very firm in saying that we are not just going to provide this money and then hope that people will have the Internet,” he said. “We are going back and doing audits, random audits and speed test data on those who received broadband. “

The national broadband office predicts that the first homes and businesses to be connected under the national program will have broadband access by the end of the year.

Some aspects of the strategy will start “immediately,” Carmichael said.

“You will start to see an immediate impact with some of the programs in place. There are various programs that are incorporated into this whole $ 1 billion aggregate, ”he said. “It’s our goal, to have lots of new connections before the end of the year. But over a period of time, two years maximum on some of these programs and on some federal programs up to five years. So it takes time, but the effort is continuous, it’s immediate, it’s concentrated and it’s focused.

Justice summed up the program Wednesday by saying that its objectives are “super simple”.

“Where we are today is a mess, unbelievable. That’s all there is to it, just a mess. Whichever way you cut it, a mess, ”he said. “We’ve put real money into it and we’re going to go from a mess to a lot, a lot, a lot better.”

Senior Editor Charles Young can be reached at 304-626-1447 or [email protected]

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