W.Va. Governor Announces Internet Infrastructure Push

Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday that the state’s fiber-optic cable network would soon be growing by 275 miles thanks to an investment by Facebook subsidiary Middle Mile Infrastructure.

by Moriah Sollie / March 5, 2019
Shutterstock/John M. Chase

(TNS)  — An initiative announced by Gov. Jim Justice Monday that will expand the state’s Internet infrastructure is a step in the right direction, but more is needed in the southern rural counties, a delegate said.

Facebook, through their subsidiary Middle Mile Infrastructure, is planning to build a high capacity fiber optic cable network crossing a portion of West Virginia as part of the company’s ongoing larger network infrastructure build stretching from Virginia to Ohio.

Justice, along with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., made the announcement, saying the route of the network will travel about 275 miles through West Virginia, starting at the western border, through the Kanawha Valley, then turn northwest to bring the fiber through the Appalachia region.

“Broadband development is absolutely critical to moving West Virginia forward,” Justice said. “An investment of this magnitude in our state is really big news and will help us continue to show the world how great West Virginia truly is.”

“Making sure West Virginia has reliable, high-speed Internet has been a priority of mine since I was first elected to Congress,” Capito said. “Today’s announcement with Facebook is an important step toward ensuring our state has the critical infrastructure to support broadband deployment, and I know it will help so many in our state, especially the rural communities that are unserved. I’m excited for what a fully connected West Virginia can offer the rest of the country, as well as what it can do for the future of our state. Today’s announcement brings us another step closer to achieving that goal.”

Del. Ed Evans, D-McDowell County, praised the high capacity fiber-optic cable network that will cross the state and agreed with what Justice and Capito said, but the other rural counties cannot be left behind.

“Broadband access would open up Southern West Virginia,” he said. “If we are going to have any kind of economic diversification, it’s necessary.”

Evans said the current infrastructure in McDowell County and other southern counties does not meet the needs of residents or businesses.

“We need broadband in the worst way,” he said, adding it’s not luxury, but a necessity, and he hopes southern counties can benefit from the network.

Some communities along the route of the Facebook fiber-optic network will benefit because providers can expand middle-mile networks into those communities.

“We are very excited to expand West Virginia’s Internet infrastructure through this partnership with Facebook,” Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch said. “I supported Governor Justice’s Roads to Prosperity initiative because good roads are crucial to our state’s economic success — and in today’s economy, Internet infrastructure is every bit as important.”

Work is slated to begin in 2019 and is expected to take about 18 to 24 months to complete.

©2019 the Bluefield Daily Telegraph (Bluefield, W.Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.