Jack Walker Published

ARC Grants $32 Million More For W.Va. Broadband

Cell phone or mobile service tower in forested area of West Virginia providing broadband service.
More than 300,000 West Virginia households are underserved by broadband coverage. The state ranks second-worst in coverage nationally.
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Updated on Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 10:38 a.m.

The Appalachian Regional Commission, an economic development organization that operates across Appalachia, has granted the West Virginia Department of Economic Development $32,235,629 for broadband service improvements across the Mountain State.

Broadband refers to continuously running, high-speed internet, which can be harder to access in remote areas that lack infrastructure like fiber-optic cables or transmission towers.

West Virginia lags behind most other states in terms of broadband access. More than 300,000 households across the state are underserved by broadband coverage, and the state ranks second-worst in coverage nationally.

Recent pushes to expand broadband coverage nationally have brought increased attention and investment to West Virginia.

Beginning in 2023, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) developed plans to grant the state more than $1.21 billion for high-speed internet services. That funding received final approval in April, and officials with the Department of Economic Development claimed it would bring broadband internet to every household in the state.

While granted from a different source, the new round of funding  — like the NTIA grant before it  — is made possible through the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, which aims to bolster broadband infrastructure and services across the country.

The new BEAD funds will be administered by the Department of Economic Development, which oversees the state’s Office of Broadband.

In a Wednesday statement, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the additional round of federal funding was crucial to ensuring “more West Virginians have access to dependable high-speed internet.”

Additionally, Manchin said expanding broadband services played an important role in growing the state’s economy.

Manchin advocated for the added funds to “help equip every family and business in the Mountain State with the tools they need to thrive in the modern digital economy,” he said.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said expanding broadband access has been a top priority for her in working through legislation. “Today, we are continuing to see the benefits of that in our state,” she said.

**Editor’s note: This story was updated to include a statement from Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.