West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council
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The West Virginia Broadband Council wishes you a joyous holiday season and a Happy New Year.

The West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council is commissioned to enhance the development of plans, processes and procedures for extending broadband access into underserved and unserved areas of the state.

The Road To Broadband Got Smoother In 2018 
A message from Broadband Council Chairman Robert Hinton

During the holiday season, it is a joy to give thanks to those who have worked diligently with us to improve broadband connectivity throughout the state in 2018.

Many initiatives are ongoing and numerous milestones have been reached in the past 12 months that are enhancing the development of broadband service to the unserved and underserved areas of West Virginia. The Council continues to work with Gov. Jim Justice and the West Virginia Legislature to promote pro-broadband policies; to partner with the state Division of Highways and private sector providers to develop policies to expedite broadband development; and to facilitate broadband development opportunities with county and municipal officials and community leaders.

The Council is preparing its annual report for the Legislature. I am confident you will find it an encouraging read, indicating that the state is headed in the right direction with policies that support and encourage the expansion of broadband. On behalf of the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council, have a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year.

Robert Hinton, Chairman, Rural Business User
Robert Morris, Vice Chairman, Urban Residential User
Michael J. Holstine, P.E., Secretary-Treasurer, Rural Business User
Richard Cavender, Urban Business User
Robert L. Cole, Rural Residential User
Joshua D. Spence, Chief Technology Officer, West Virginia Office of Technology
Romie A. "Pete" Hobbs, Rural Residential User
Dr. Steven L. Paine, Superintendent, West Virginia Department of Education; Represented by Brenda Morris
John Reasbeck, Rural Business User
W. Clayton Burch, Interim Cabinet Secretary, West Virginia Department of Commerce; Represented by Jeff Proctor
Matt Turner, Executive Vice Chancellor for Administration, West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education
The Honorable Craig Blair, West Virginia Senate
The Honorable Robert Plymale, West Virginia Senate
The Honorable Daniel Linville, West Virginia House of Delegates
The Honorable Kenneth Hicks, West Virginia House of Delegates

USDA Launches ReConnect Program to Improve Connectivity in Rural America

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a new funding program that allocates up to $600 million in loans and grants to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America. The Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect Program) makes funding opportunities available to state and local governments, internet service providers, telecommunications companies, and rural electric cooperatives and utilities.

The USDA has created a comprehensive resource portal for program information, which includes technical assistance webinars and a listing of regional workshops.

The ReConnect Program is designed to expand broadband service to rural areas without sufficient broadband access, defined in this program as 10 megabits per second (mbps) downstream and 1 mbps upstream.

Approved projects must create access speeds of at least 25 mbps upload and 3 mbps download. Priority will be awarded for projects that will deliver higher-capacity connections to rural homes, businesses and farms. The USDA offers a number of funding programs for broadband.

The ReConnect Program includes three distinct funding tiers and deadlines, including:

  • $200 million for grants requiring a 25 percent match, due April 29, 2019
  • $200 million for 50-50 grant/loan combinations, due May 29, 2019
  • $200 million for low-interest loans, due June 28, 2019
Promotional information ReConnect Program flyers are available here.
Eleven Applicants Vie For CDBG Technology And Innovation Grant Funds

Eleven county commissions have submitted applications for broadband development funds through the HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The 11 applications represent 14 West Virginia counties.

In Fiscal Year 2017, Gov. Jim Justice expanded the CDBG program to include broadband development.  
The announcement of Fiscal Year 2018 recipients is expected in early 2019. Current applicants include:

  • Brooke and Hancock Counties: Planning
  • Grant County: Planning
  • Jefferson County: Planning
  • Lewis County: Infrastructure
  • Marshall, Ohio and Wetzel Counties: Planning
  • Mason County: Planning
  • McDowell County: Infrastructure
  • Mercer County: Infrastructure
  • Nicholas County: Infrastructure
  • Pocahontas County: Planning
  • Wayne County: Planning

The dedication of CDBG funding will assist West Virginia’s communities in the pursuit of economic development and job creation through the availability of broadband service, while contributing to the state’s overall broadband development strategy. 

Nicholas County Broadband Project 
This is a continuing series which features HUD CDBG Broadband Development Projects

The Nicholas County Commission is the lead agency for a broadband infrastructure project in the Hinkle Mountain-Little Laurel areas just outside the corporate limits of Richwood. The Commission has procured the services of Design Nine, Inc. for the design of the project and is working closely with the City of Richwood, local planning group Milltown Community Economic Development Group and local nonprofit Richwood Scientific, Inc.

The project will incorporate a recently-built emergency telecommunications tower owned by the county as the catalyst to provide affordable broadband in the Hinkle Mountain-Little Laurel areas. The Commission was awarded a Fiscal Year 2017 HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)  grant for this project. The City of Richwood is currently utilizing a CDBG grant for a water system upgrade in the same project area. The Region IV Planning and Development Council is the grant administrator for both projects. 

"This is an exciting and unique broadband project with its buildout in an area where a water upgrade is occurring simultaneously," said Cassandra Lawson, Region IV project manager. "The telecommunications tower atop Hinkle Mountain overlooking area neighborhoods and businesses will serve as the catalyst to providing broadband service to our citizens.  Such connectivity will provide an enormous productivity boost for our residents and business owners."

Speed Tests: Keep Them Coming

The 2018 Speedtest U.S. Fixed Broadband Performance Report by Ookla® reveals that fixed broadband speeds in the United States are increasing.  Speedtest® data reveals a 35.8 percent increase in mean download speed during the last year and a 22 percent increase in upload speed. As a result, the U.S. ranks 7th in the world for download speed and 27th for upload speed during the third quarter of 2018. 

The Broadband Enhancement Council introduced its Speed Test Portal in the last quarter of 2017 in conjunction with Ookla to provide state residents and business owners with another tool for measuring actual internet speed.

In calendar year 2018, Ookla reports the following results for its independently-conducted speed tests in West Virginia:

  • Total number of speed tests: 594,499
  • Tests above FCC definition of broadband (25-3 mbps): 363,901
  • Tests between 10-1 and 25-3 mbps: 113,432
  • Tests between 4-1 and 10-1 mbps: 48,695
  • Tests less than 4-1 mbps: 73,471

“Speed test data provides West Virginians with a voice in identifying where broadband level service does and does not exist,” said Robert Hinton, Council chairman. “These numbers show that state residents are actively taking the speed test and are extremely interested in improving connectivity. The Council will continue to use speed test results to assist communities in their efforts to expand broadband in West Virginia.”

Delegate Daniel Linville Appointed To
WV Broadband Enhancement Council

The West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council welcomes its newest member, the Honorable Daniel Linville (R - Cabell, 16), who has been appointed to serve as one of two Advisory Members from the West Virginia House of Delegates. House Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R - Clay, 33) appointed Delegate Linville to the advisory position, pledging his strong support of broadband development in West Virginia.

Delegate Linville joins Senate Advisory Members, the Honorable Craig Blair (R - Berkeley, 15) and the Honorable Robert Plymale (D - Wayne, 05), and fellow House of Delegate Advisory Member, the Honorable Kenneth Hicks (D - Wayne, 19), in this important  role.
The Council values the input of its Advisory Members who provide legislative oversight and serve as resources, notably as it pertains to broadband policy development and legislation. The State has taken bold steps to expand broadband connectivity in recent years.  Continuing this effort, Speaker Hanshaw recently proposed expanding the scope of the existing House of Delegates Committee on Roads and Transportation into a new Technology and Infrastructure Committee.

“For far too long West Virginia has lagged behind the nation in making sure our citizens and businesses have access to high-speed internet and other technologies they need to prosper,” Speaker Hanshaw said in his release. “By refocusing this committee, I want to shift the way we think of providing infrastructure in our state.”

FCC Appalachian Tour Visits State;
Officials Met With Citizens

Officials from the Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau met with local government leaders and West Virginia residents during the “FCC Appalachian Rural Tour” in December. The FCC team is visiting states to discuss consumer issues,  such as broadband, telehealth, and digital inclusion.
Topics also included dealing with unwanted robocalls, understanding telephone bills, and where to file complaints about such matters. FCC Bureau Chief Lyle Ishida noted during the presentations that “the real solution to fraud is education.”  The FCC is utilizing the rural tours, which include “Ask The FCC” forums, to gather details about the topics that are most important to each state.

The rural tour team visited the American Legion in Bridgeport; the Harrison County Senior Center in Clarksburg; and the Cabell County Library in Huntington, before travelling to Kentucky and Tennessee.


Map of the Month

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released 2017 mapping data in September 2018, and released another update in December 2018. These new maps will be posted to the Broadband Enhancement Council website in early January and be featured again regularly in this newsletter.


To read past West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council Newsletters, click here.

WV Connected

Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) representative Mark DeFalco spoke at the West Virginia Health Information Technology Summit at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.  DeFalco reviewed ARC programs, including telecommunication initiatives, that address the healthcare challenges and opportunities in the Appalachian region.

Mark Your Calendar

Next Broadband Enhancement Council Meeting:
Thursday, January 10, 2019, 10:00 a.m. State Capitol, Building 3, Large Conference Room 124.

Broadband USA webinar - Measuring the Digital Divide: Review of Recent Surveys and Data
Wednesday, January 16, 2019. For more information, click here.


West Virginia Broadband In The News

Survey Says: Internet Is Slow In Morgan County

Legislative Committee To Focus On Technology

WV Delegate Wants To Prioritize Last-Mile Broadband

WV House Speaker Talks Broadband In Advance Of Session

WV Broadband Council combats confusion
West Virginia Welcomes New CTO

Clarksburg Exponent Editorial – WV Deserves Better Broadband

WV Broadband Council Committee Seeks Coverage Information
Sen. Manchin submits challenge to FCC broadband map

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