Congress, U.S. President

Manchin, Capito announce $1.2B to expand broadband access in West Virginia

MORGANTOWN – Sen. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito separately announced on Monday that the state will receive more than $1.2 billion to deploy broadband across the state.

The money is part of $42.45 billion the Biden administration announced to expand broadband coverage across the nation under the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. Right now, 271,624 homes and small businesses in West Virginia lack access to a high-speed internet connection.

Manchin joined with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo for a press conference with West Virginia reporters.

Raimondo said, “This is a huge day for West Virginia.” The $1,210,800,969.85 will be enough to connect every resident, She commended Manchin for his work. “He has been a stalwart advocate for the people of West Virginia, insisting we have the maps right.”

Manchin talked about the FDR-era rural electrification program, when only about 10-15% of West Virginians had electricity. “With that rural electrification, it changed peoples lives. The same thing’s going to happen with this.”

He began working on correcting the broadband maps back in October 2016, he said, when then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler insisted West Virginia had 99% coverage and Manchin demonstrated otherwise.

Manchin said he is working with the local development offices across the state to determine the needs and use the money in the best way.

A release from Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration explains that states will receive their formal notice of allocation on June 30. They then have 180 days from the date of that formal notice to submit their initial proposals for how they will run their grant programs.

States can begin submitting their initial proposals starting July 1. Once NTIA approves a proposal, which will occur on a rolling basis, they will be able to access at least 20% of their allocated funds.

Raimondo said no money goes out until NTIA approves a proposal. They are putting pressure on internet service providers to provide affordable packages. “At the end of the day, we’re not going to approve these plans unless we’re convinced its affordable as well as accessible.”

On the issue of affordability, Manchin and Raimondo said ISPs find providing service to rural and mountainous areas uneconomical, and don’t do it.

But under BEAD, Manchin said, the federal government is covering the cost, not the carrier, so there will be no excuse for anyone to pay high prices or get gouged for gaining access.

Raimondo said, “When we say everyone, we mean everyone. … It is plenty of money to get to everyone.”

Capito is a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Appropriations Committees, and ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. She noted in her announcement that she has been working on the broadband maps and accessibility issue since 2018.

“Connecting West Virginia has been a top priority of mine since Day One in the U.S. Senate,” she said, “and today’s announcement has the ability to lead us to a major breakthrough in that effort.

“I have consistently worked with those involved in this process at both the state and federal levels to ensure our maps are as accurate as possible and West Virginia receives its fair share of funding,” she said. “This funding, which is the largest amount of broadband funding awarded to the state to date, will assist in our efforts to provide communities with the resources they need to improve connectivity overall.”

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