CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice announced Tuesday that PRODIGI, in collaboration with the Preston County Commission and Economic Development Authority, has been awarded two Line Extension Advancement and Development (LEAD) grants to construct 150 miles of fiber optic network throughout the north-central and Valley District areas of Preston County.
This marks the next round of grants awarded as part of Justice’s Billion-Dollar Broadband Strategy, also known as the West Virginia Broadband Investment Plan (WVBIP).
“Our mission of bringing high-speed internet to rural parts of West Virginia continues with this latest announcement,” Justice said. “Companies like PRODIGI are doing incredible work, and I’m proud to announce this partnership, which will connect more West Virginians with high-speed internet. My Billion-Dollar Broadband Strategy continues to pay dividends, and I’m excited to see the results.”
PRODIGI President and CEO Tim Wotring said fiber construction is ongoing, and the company has begun to install high-speed internet to customers located within the grant areas. The project will serve areas in the communities of Arthurdale, Reedsville, Bretz and Masontown.
“PRODIGI’s vision is to completely blanket Preston County with our fiber optic network so that no matter where you live or do business in Preston County, you will have access to a true, reliable broadband connection. The governor’s broadband plan is helping to make our vision a reality,” Wotring said.
Access to the new broadband infrastructure provides opportunities for Preston County residents and businesses such as telework, faster access to news and information and online learning, healthcare and financial services, according to Roberta “Robbie” Baylor, executive director of the Preston County Economic Development Authority.
“The Preston County EDA is excited to see that customers are already being connected as a result of the funding the governor provided for broadband. These projects are a huge benefit to Preston County by erasing the disadvantages and threats to progress that our citizens have faced due to lack of broadband,” Baylor said.
Funding for the WVBIP’s LEAD program is provided through the West Virginia Legislature’s allocation of $100 million to create the West Virginia Broadband Development Fund. The funding includes $90 million through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and $10 million in state general revenue funds. Funds are also derived through the ARPA Capital Projects Fund, which includes $136 million for broadband development in West Virginia. The West Virginia Department of Economic Development’s Office of Broadband will administer program funds.