USDA invests in broadband for rural WV communities

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BUCKHANNON, W. Va. (WDTV)-- The digital divide is a problem that many of our counties continue to face with several residents and businesses having no access to high speed internet. Thanks to a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, thousands will soon be brought up to speed.

The USDA is investing $3 million in infrastructure projects to bring broadband to more than 3,600 households and communities. Senator Shelley Moore Capito joined Anne Hazlett, Assistant to the Secretary of Rural Development, to announce the project.

"We are focused on making rural America stronger. We are committed to the future of these communities and broadband connectivity is just a key piece of the future in so many of these places. It's the electricity of the modern era," said Hazlett.

The grant was awarded to the Central West Virginia Development Association. High speed connectivity will be provided in Barbour, Randolph, and Upshur counties.

"There is a digital divide in this country and rural America and many parts of West Virginia are under served. Maybe you have some connectivity, but it's not enough and it's not affordable, so you have one of those two issues," said Capito.

They discussed how the grant will help students in Buckhannon with their education and future careers. They also talked about how this project will be a huge boost to the local economy.

"Back in the 1930's the effort was to put electricity into every home. Now that effort is to put connectivity and broadband deployment into every home," said Capito.

Work for the project is set to begin next year.

"As we build a tower we will be turning it on for people in that local area so everybody will not necessarily be waiting two years. As a tower is built that area will be turned on and we will move to the next. Over a 24-month period we hope to have them all on for all customers," said Emiel Butcher, President of Micrologic.

Many landowners also made this project possible by allowing workers to build towers on their land.

Capito said she also hopes to expand service throughout the state in the coming years.