CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has approved West Virginia’s application for $5 million to support technical planning and public outreach to bring high-speed broadband internet to all West Virginians. The award is part of the Internet for All initiative, created and funded by the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021.
The Act includes two distinct programs to provide affordable, high-speed broadband internet access to all 50 U.S. – the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program and the Digital Equity Planning Grant Program. The award of the BEAD planning grant follows the award of a $728,000 Digital Equity planning grant, approved by NTIA on Sep. 30, 2022, for a total award of $5,728,000.
Both initiatives are combined under the federal Internet for All program, through which more than $48 billion will be allocated for broadband infrastructure deployment, skills training and access to technology.
As part of Gov. Justice’s Billion Dollar Broadband Initiative, the West Virginia Department of Economic Development, Office of Broadband, along with the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council and other strategic partners, will develop West Virginia’s Five-Year Broadband Action Plan and Digital Equity Plan over the next year. The agencies have created a website to provide regular updates on the BEAD and Digital Equity planning initiative at internetforallwv.wv.gov.
The U.S. Department of Commerce and the NTIA require each state to develop a Digital Equity Plan and a Five-Year Broadband Action Plan to obtain Infrastructure Act funding. The plans will be submitted to NTIA, and upon approval, will secure all available funding under the Infrastructure Act to expand broadband and help achieve digital equity in the Mountain State. The Office of Broadband will utilize the $5 million BEAD planning grant to complete the State’s Five-Year Action Plan.
The plan will include:
- Refining West Virginia’s mapping and data collection to identify unserved, underserved, and underrepresented communities, using local, regional, and State-level data, along with the FCC’s new National Broadband Map;
- Conducting community outreach and stakeholder engagement to inform the State plan;
- Meeting NTIA’s local coordination requirements to promote alignment with the State’s Digital Equity plan;
- Providing technical assistance to communities; and
- Developing strategies to achieve universal broadband coverage in West Virginia.
The Five-Year Action Plan must be submitted to NTIA within 270 days of receipt of BEAD funds. Following NTIA’s approval of the plan, the Office of Broadband will submit an Initial Proposal to NTIA outlining strategies to address the broadband coverage gaps identified in the Five-Year Plan.
The Digital Equity Plan will be a major component of the Five-Year Plan. The West Virginia Office of Broadband encourages organizations that promote broadband access, equity, affordability, or adoption activities to send contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the form at internetforallwv.wv.gov.
Eligible West Virginians are encouraged to visit www.fcc.gov/acp to register for the Affordable Connectivity Program to obtain federal assistance with Internet service. As of November 21, 2022, 84,600 West Virginians have enrolled in the ACP.
To learn more about West Virginia’s ongoing broadband development initiative, visit broadband.wv.gov.