Preston Economic Development Authority seeks grant to expand broadband in county

KINGWOOD — The Preston County Economic Development Authority (PCEDA) is again applying for a grant to extend broadband in the county.

As part of the application, Prestonians are being asked to complete a survey about their internet service by April 5.

This is the third year the authority has applied for the federal grant.  PCEDA Executive Director Robbie Baylor said last year’s application  missed funding approval by just a few points in the grading system.

To take the  broadband survey go to  surveymonkey.com/r/

9T7CSHP or to the PCEDA’s Facebook page or its office above Clear Mountain Bank in Kingwood.

The grant is through the USDA Rural Utilities Service Community-Oriented Connectivity Broadband Grant Program.

If the USDA grant is funded, the authority will partner with Digital Connections to provide broadband service to 1,278 households in northern Preston County. That includes the Hazelton, Lenox and Cuzzart areas.

According to the grant application, all households, businesses and community centers within the  proposed service area will be offered service “at the designated broadband grant speed of at least 25 Mbps down and 25 Mbps up.”

The project  includes 84 miles of trunk fiber.

The Preston County Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Preston Memorial Hospital, the Preston County Commission and others are providing letters of support for the application.

Preston Memorial, in its letter of support, noted adequate broadband can directly influence people’s lives.

“For PMH, bringing broadband service to rural areas like Digital Connections is proposing means that we could implement telemedicine for congestive heart failure monitoring, home sleep studies, cardiac failure and stroke,” the letter says.

“For healthcare services, clinics could be built where they do not exist currently because of non-existent broadband internet service. In addition, we could utilize other methods of contacting patients, like email or text messaging, which is not possible in many cases because so many of our patients don’t have internet/email accounts and cell service at their homes.

“Sounds unbelievable today, but the lack of broadband is just another barrier contributing to the poor health outcomes for our citizens in West Virginia.”

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