CHARLESTON, W.Va. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, as well as co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, today applauded Governor Jim Justice’s executive order to help expand broadband capabilities in West Virginia. Specifically, Governor Justice’s executive order would remove the regulatory cap amount of money that can be issued to the state of West Virginia from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The governor’s executive order will remove a cap on the West Virginia Economic Development Authority (WVEDA) loan insurance program for broadband deployment projects. Doing so will allow WVEDA to provide loan insurance for letters of credit issued by financial institutions that are required by FCC rules for internet service providers to participate in the upcoming Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction.
“The governor’s executive order is great news for West Virginia and will help ensure that local internet service providers are able to compete in the upcoming RDOF auction this fall,” Senator Capito said. “Improving connectivity in West Virginia has been and continues to be one of my top priorities, and we’ve made significant progress in achieving our broadband goals thanks in part to my Capito Connect initiative. Today’s announcement is an innovative federal-state partnership that will hopefully allow more local providers to successfully bid on the majority of the RDOF census tracts in the state. These areas are oftentimes the most challenging to serve, and we need to ensure that local providers that want to connect their community with true high-speed internet, have the ability to compete in the upcoming auction. I applaud the governor for his leadership and look forward to continuing to work to close the digital divide in the Mountain State.”
The RDOF is one of the most ambitious steps the FCC has taken towards bridging the digital divide, which will provide $20.4 billion over the next 10 years for high speed fixed broadband service to rural homes and small businesses. The largest portion of these funds—$16 billion—will be made available for Phase 1 of RDOF. According to the FCC, West Virginia has over 121,000 initially eligible locations for Phase 1 funding that are completely unserved with voice and 25/3Mbps or higher broadband.