Tag: "west virginia"

Posted April 20, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Snapshot

Maryland plans to funnel American Rescue Plan Act funding towards community broadband 

Vermont Governor bolsters House plan backing Communications Union Districts 

A national movement to address digital inclusion ignites

See the bottom of this post for related job openings

 

State Scene

Maryland

Maryland State Governor Larry Hogan made digital equity and literacy a top priority of the state when he signed H.B. 97, the Digital Connectivity Act, into law on April 13. The new law establishes the Office of Statewide Broadband (OSB) within the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development to create a plan to get all Marylanders connected to affordable, high-speed Internet by 2026. The OSB will also assist in administering $300 million for digital equity initiatives out of the $3.9 billion Maryland received in American Rescue Plan funds. 

The $300 million allocation will be broken down into separate pots of money to address physical infrastructure, affordability, and adoption: $45 million will be for grants that support and expand municipal broadband networks; $75 million for affordability initiatives to subsidize the cost of monthly service fees and devices for eligible residents who are subscribers to private Internet Service Providers (ISPs); and $150 million dedicated to deploy broadband infrastructure and expand connectivity in both urban and rural areas. In addition, $10 million is earmarked for local government and community-based solutions, and $6 million will support adoption initiatives, including $4 million for a new division under the University System of Maryland to develop curriculum on digital literacy and addressing the broadband gap.

Maryland had a state rural broadband office prior to the creation of the new OSB office. The rural broadband office offers support to Maryland’s rural regions attempting to access federal funding opportunities. The new OSB will be dedicated to addressing barriers that address the connectivity challenges Maryland’s suburban and metro residents...

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Posted March 15, 2021 by Jericho Casper

This is the first in an ongoing series of state legislative roundups of bills that advance the prospects of success for community broadband networks. Feel free to reach out to Jericho Casper with tips or corrections.

High-Speed Hirings - Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It

Investments in broadband infrastructure at the municipal level are on the rise, creating more employment opportunities in the broadband industry. Advocates for municipal broadband who feel called to make a change in their communities should check out these job openings:

Dayton, TX

Applications are being accepted for a Broadband Manager/Head Network Engineer to oversee the business and technical operations of DayNet — a new Internet utility emerging in Dayton, Texas — in the process of constructing a citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network.

Whatcom County, Washington

Applications are being accepted for two positions currently open at Whatcom County PUD: Broadband Services Analyst and Electric Utility Analyst.

The State Scene

From coast to coast, state lawmakers are aiming to create centralized broadband clearinghouses and improve permitting processes. Here’s a snapshot: 

New Mexico Legislature Seeks Reforms to Craft State Broadband Plan

With merely five days remaining in the state's legislative session, New Mexico legislators are pushing to advance bills that would set up a centralized body within the state government tasked with improving Internet access.

One of the first bills introduced during the 2021 legislative session, Senate Bill 93, the Broadband Access and Expansion Act, passed the state Senate last Wednesday, by a vote of 33-6, calling for the creation of a new Office of Broadband Access and Expansion. Padilla believed passing through the Senate...

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Posted February 17, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The Expanding Potential in Communities (EPIC) Grant deadline funded by Truist Bank and administered by the Internet Society has been extended by two weeks from its original deadline of February 19 in the wake of the weather hammering eligible areas over the last few days. There's nothing like a severe winter event that knocks power out for millions to break up the monotony of a raging pandemic. 

Grant applications are now due March 5th by 11:59pm. 

Read our original story about the grant program below:

A new grant program funded by Truist Bank's philanthropic initiative and administered by the Internet Society will disburse $1 million in funds to seven community broadband projects over the next year and a half. The Expanding Potential in Communities (EPIC) Grant program is currently soliciting applications, with grants to be disbursed to eligible communities across the southeast United States, including Washington D.C. and Texas, ranging from $125,000-180,000. The program is aimed at kickstarting Covid 19 relief efforts but also providing essential, locally owned broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved communities.

From the grant program website:

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of broadband Internet connectivity into focus as work, school, healthcare, and more shift online. Internet connectivity is more important than ever in keeping our lives moving . . . The $1 million Expanding Potential in Communities (EPIC) Grant program supports broadband initiatives in the southeastern United States . . . As the administrating partner, the Internet Society will support local broadband expansion by funding complementary Internet connectivity solutions to help alleviate disparities in education, employment, and social welfare that are exacerbated by lack of access to broadband.

See eligibility requirements below:

  • Timeframe – project must show tangible results within a year of receiving funding. Funding will occur in two stages between April and December 2021.
  • Location – project must be completed in one of the following states: North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Washington DC, South Carolina, Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia,...
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Posted January 28, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

A new grant program funded by Truist Bank's philanthropic initiative and administered by the Internet Society will disburse $1 million in funds to seven community broadband projects over the next year and a half. The Expanding Potential in Communities (EPIC) Grant program is currently soliciting applications, with grants to be disbursed to eligible communities across the southeast United States, including Washington D.C. and Texas, ranging from $125,000-180,000. The program is aimed at kickstarting Covid 19 relief efforts but also providing essential, locally owned broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved communities.

From the grant program website:

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of broadband Internet connectivity into focus as work, school, healthcare, and more shift online. Internet connectivity is more important than ever in keeping our lives moving . . . The $1 million Expanding Potential in Communities (EPIC) Grant program supports broadband initiatives in the southeastern United States . . . As the administrating partner, the Internet Society will support local broadband expansion by funding complementary Internet connectivity solutions to help alleviate disparities in education, employment, and social welfare that are exacerbated by lack of access to broadband.

See eligibility requirements below:

  • Timeframe – project must show tangible results within a year of receiving funding. Funding will occur in two stages between April and December 2021.
  • Location – project must be completed in one of the following states: North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Washington DC, South Carolina, Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland.
  • Bandwidth – project must provide a minimum broadband threshold for deployment.
  • Applicant must have an official bank account in their name (based on their legal registration) in order to be eligible for a grant.

In addition, projects will be chosen based on their ability to demonstrate community support with participation from local leaders, a minimum bandwidth requirement, finance skills, an assessment of local ordinances and assets friendly to quick deployment, the participation of local private industry partners, and a summary of the...

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Posted November 21, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Months after work and school went remote for millions of Americans, some communities are still waiting to get online. In the Wall Street Journal in August, members of a rural community in West Virginia discuss the daily toll in their life that this struggle to receive home Internet access takes. ILSR’s Christopher Mitchell also explains the failures of US broadband policy that has kept communities from getting connected:

We see states that are still making policy based on what the cable and telephone companies, the big cable and telephone companies, tell them. But we electrified the country by recognizing that those business models do not work for all of America.

Read more in the article, or watch the video here.

Posted January 29, 2020 by Lisa Gonzalez

As the USDA continues to award federal ReConnect funds for rural connectivity, we're glad to see that communities in West Virginia are not being ignored. Most recently, the Harrison Rural Electrification Association (HREA) announced that they will dedicate ReConnect grant funding of approximately $18.75 million to deploy Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) in rural sections of their service area.

Combining Funding and Collaboration

The project will bring more than 6,300 households high-quality connectivity along with five educational facilities and another community facility. The deployment will cover approximately 354 square miles within Harrison, Lewis, Upshur, Barbour, and Doddridge counties. Once completed, the project will provide better connectivity to around 16,000 residents.

In total, the project will cost an estimated $25 million and HREA will use a $6.2 million loan from CoBank to cover the difference. They plan to complete the project within 3 1/2 years and cooperative leadership intend to have the project ready for bids by the end of February.

Rather than offering Internet access directly to members, the cooperative will work with Prodigi Fiber, a private sector ISP that works exclusively in West Virginia and only with FTTH connectivity. The co-op will lease the infrastructure to Prodigi and dedicate the proceeds from the lease toward the CoBank loan payments.

Early Excitement

On the HREA Facebook page, locals have expressed their excitement at the prospect of better connectivity. Some note the need for better reliability while others are looking for better speeds or alternatives to current options. 

Lenny W.: Was excited to get the email. This is great for the rural areas of this county. Are there any maps or projections on what areas are going to start and when? I’ll sign up for whatever is $75-$100 per month.

Ken C.: Whoooohoooo

Sharon L.: Please,...

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Posted January 3, 2020 by Lisa Gonzalez

In recent weeks, several rural electric and communications cooperatives have received federal ReConnect funding grants and loans. In December, Tyler and Wetzel Counties in West Virginia learned that they will also benefit from the program. Approximately $5.6 million has been awarded to the region for two projects that will provide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity in some of the state's northern rural areas.

Development Is the Goal

In Wetzel County, the Ohio Valley Industrial and Business Development Corporation will lead the project and the Tyler County Development Authority, Inc., takes the reigns in the adjacent county. In addition to projects within each county, more than 74 miles of fiber will connect the two.

The Wetzel County project will include $2.1 million in ReConnect Program grant funding and use a matching amount to fund the total project, estimated at $4.2 million. The Ohio Valley Industrial and Business Development Corp., intends to connect more than 1,900 households, five educational facilities, a healthcare center and nine additional community facilities.

The Tyler County Development Authority, Inc. (TCDA) plans to use their $1.7 million grant and a ReConnect loan of equal amount to deploy fiber infrastructure throughout the county. They will bring FTTH to almost 1,400 residences, three school facilities, a healthcare center, and five community facilities within a 26 square mile area. 

Executive Director Eric Peters of the TCDA discussed the Tyler County project at a recent ceremony, where USDA Rural Utilities Administrator Chad Rupe announced the award:

"The Tyler County Development Authority will own the system's physical infrastructure and will lease it to a private service provider. CityNet was instrumental in providing technical expertise and their background as a successful and experienced service provider was invaluable. We anticipate that CityNet will be our contracted ISP."

Peters highlighted the need for high-quality Internet access for families, businesses, and...

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Posted October 10, 2019 by

In 2014, West Virginia wrote its Broadband Plan, but since then much has changed in the state, in the country, and with technology. Officials from the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council have now released a Request for Information on Actions and Partnerships to Advance Last Mile and Middle Mile Broadband Services in West Virginia (RFI). Responses are due November 4th and early responses are encouraged.

Multi-Purpose RFI

According to the RFI, the state has several reasons for releasing the RFI:

  • To update to the West Virginia Broadband Plan, last written in 2014. They seek input from broadband service providers currently in the state, and others who may wish to expand service within the state. 
  • To identify unserved areas which the private sector is likely to serve in the near future so as to better target its efforts. To identify areas where deployment will require public-private partnerships and potential partners. 
  • To seek input from companies related to the development of middle mile assets that can support better last mile service in West Virginia. The Council expects to receive access to a limited number of fiber strands along long-haul fiber routes. Because the West Virginia Legislature has encouraged the electric utilities to undertake feasibility studies for constructing and operating middle mile broadband Internet projects, the Council seeks comment from last-mile providers regarding these types of networks.  

The Council hopes to receive responses from:

  • Last-mile broadband service providers. 
  • Middle-mile broadband service providers. 
  • Network operators. 
  • Infrastructure investors and developers. 

Some of the goals that the program hope to fulfill include defining target areas that are unserved and helping local cities and counties in West Virginia obtain gigabit connectivity. The state is working with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on the latter’s mapping initiative. The project is intended to better map Internet access and improve accuracy on a more granular level.

For details on the program goals related to middle mile and last mile projects, review the full...

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Posted April 2, 2018 by Lisa Gonzalez

The application window for the Connect America Fund (CAF) II Auction recently closed among debate about eligibility criteria. A recent editorial from the WVNews, where multiple counties were hit hard by flawed FCC data, urged their federal elected officials to act before rural residents lose more funding opportunities.

Wha’ Happened?

As multiple experts have shown, the Form FCC data collection uses an overly broad measurement by relying on census blocks to show areas with broadband service. The FCC has admitted that their methodology overstates who does or does not have FCC defined broadband speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. This year, seven West Virginia counties that hoped to access CAF II funding have been deemed ineligible because the new FCC Form 477 data indicates that each county has 100 percent broadband access.

Folks in the region are reasonably confused, concerned, and upset. In 2015, the FCC’s data indicated that these same areas were underserved and there have been no deployments to cause such a seismic change.

The editors at the WVNews noted that the chairman of the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council described the new FCC determination as “not even close to being correct” and that he had predicted there might be difficulty obtaining CAF II funding.

The president of a local fixed wireless provider offered a useful analogy:

“The problem is, with the Form 477, if one person in that census block gets [broadband], then that whole census block is counted as served…That’s like saying if someone in the U.S. has access to fresh lobster, then they all do. That’s just not really true.”

He also described the dilemma companies like his face because they might want to apply for funding:

“The very data we’re turning in to the FCC that they mandate from a funding standpoint can turn out to be your worst enemy…You turn it in and may say, ‘I shot myself in the foot.’ It’s a complex problem,...

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Posted February 12, 2018 by Lisa Gonzalez

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provided Community Development Block Grant funds (CDBG) to West Virginia as in other states. This year, the Community Development Division of the West Virginia Development Office that distributes CDBG funds will provide $1.5 million to local broadband projects that include planning and infrastructure.

Big Demand

Last July, the state’s Development Office announced that it would accept applications for broadband projects. The decision was a departure from past practice of focusing only on water and sewer infrastructure. By the time the application period was closed, 12 potential projects had been submitted for consideration; those projects touch 27 counties and reach about 300,000 premises, many located in the southern part of the state.

All twelve projects will receive some amount of CDBG funding.

One of those applications was from the Region 4 council, in the hopes of obtaining $125,000 for planning to improve connectivity in Webster, Fayette, Greenbrier, Nicholas, and Pocahontas Counties. The state will provide the funding, which will potentially affect future planning for six more counties. Region 4 will collaborate with a similar initiative by Region 1, which will also receive $125,000.

Another multi-organizational application came from Clay County, which plans to work with Calhoun and Roane Counties on a feasibility and business plan on how best to move forward to improve connectivity. Fayette County wants to use its award to map out where best to place fiber for maximum effect and Gilmer County will focus on planning to involve a local industrial park along with exploring other funding strategies.

Other planning projects that will receive CDBG funding include a countywide efforts in Morgan County and a Mingo County initiative to improve Internet access in the town of Gilbert, which local officials consider critical for the local economy....

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