Business, Community and Elected Officials Gather to Discuss Broadband in West Virginia

Nearly 200 business, community leaders and federal, state and local elected officials gathered in Charleston this week for the 2023 West Virginia Broadband Summit to share their insight, expertise, successes and challenges in the broadband industry in West Virginia.

Connecting West Virginia communities was the theme of the two-day Summit, hosted by the WV Department of Economic Development, WV Office of Broadband, WV Broadband Enhancement Council, and the WV Economic Development Council.

“We’re all here to find ways and the funding needed to connect West Virginia communities and their citizens,” said Cabinet Sec. Mitch Carmichael with the WV Department of Economic Development. He said West Virginia has already received a total of $183 million in broadband funding. More than $120 million came from ARPA funding from project funds and state and local physical recovery funds, and $63 million has been donated by internet service providers.

Guests heard from state Broadband Office representatives including Director Kelly Workman, as well as from expert panelists and speakers from various telecommunications and support companies about the broadband landscape in West Virginia, including:

  • National Telecommunications Information Administration
  • Federal Communications Commission
  • ESRI
  • Corning Optical Communications
  • Tilson Technology
  • The Thrasher Group
  • Marshall University
  • West Virginia University
  • West Virginia Dept of Education
  • Generation West Virginia

Companies CityNet, HardyNet, and Prodigi were honored for their support in broadband growth and for moving to the construction phase of their projects in 2023. 

Topics during day two of the WV Broadband Summit consisted primarily around the importance of broadband workforce development programs, strategies and opportunities. Panel discussions were led by industry, higher education and nonprofit organization leaders. Presentations focused on:

  • economic impact and career opportunities
  • labor requirements in ARPA and IIJA BEAD
  • railroad utility permitting through CSX
  • bringing broadband to rural America through AEP’s middle-mile broadband expansion project

During the keynote address, WVDED Sec. Carmichael talked about the critical need of broadband for the state’s economic development and new business recruitment efforts.

Surprise guests included Gov. Justice and BabyDog, state Senate House President Craig Blair and WVU President Gee who spoke briefly about the importance of broadband in connecting West Virginia communities and its citizens.

Also at the event, Gov. Justice joined Secretary Carmichael to announce that funding has been awarded to additional broadband expansion projects throughout the State.  Frontier, Shentel, Prodigi, Armstrong Communications, HardyNet and Spruce Knob Seneca Rock Telephone, Inc. were approved for their broadband expansion projects in the Mountain State.