Request for Comment Regarding Unserved Areas: Categories Clarified, Deadline Extended to September 7, 2021

The West Virginia Department of Economic Development (WVDED), in coordination with the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council and the State Broadband Office, has issued a Request for Comment Regarding Unserved Areas, related to broadband connectivity in West Virginia. The comment period began on July 12, 2021, and will close on September 7, 2021.

The September 7, 2021, date represents a one-week extension from the original closing date. This extension is provided to facilitate greater participation and inclusivity.

Following the July 21, 2021, webinar regarding the Request for Comment Regarding Unserved Areas, the classifications of “Likely Served” and “Funded” were separated into distinct categories to clarify that information concerning these addresses is also requested during the comment period. As a result of this clarification, the comment period has been extended one week to close on September 7, 2021.

To support the Request for Comment, the WVDED has published a Preliminary Target Area Map at https://broadband.wv.gov. The map contains four address classifications:

  1. Unserved: Addresses not reported as served to the FCC,
  2. Likely Unserved: Addresses within a census block reported as served to the FCC, but that may contain some unserved addresses,
  3. Likely Served: Addresses in an area that is likely served, or
  4. Funded: Addresses in an area that is funded by a state, local or federally funded project (excluding satellite).

“Our highest priority will be to expand world-class, reliable broadband service to the areas of West Virginia that need it most. This Request for Comment Regarding Unserved Areas will help us accurately identify service locations so that any available funding can be allocated in a transparent and responsible manner to reach those areas of West Virginia with the greatest need for investment in this critical infrastructure,” explained Mitch Carmichael, Cabinet Secretary, WVDED.

While the Request for Comment is directed to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Regional Planning and Development Councils and Local Economic Development Authorities may also submit data. West Virginia’s residential and business users can participate in the Request for Comment through the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council’s Survey and Speed Test found at https://broadband.wv.gov/west-virginia-internet-speed-test/.

“Our goal is to be as inclusive as possible and to collect as much information as possible during the comment period to develop a more accurate analysis of broadband availability in West Virginia,” said Robert L. Morris, Jr., Chairman of the WV Broadband Enhancement Council.

Through this request, WVDED seeks information that will allow it to classify broadband availability more accurately at the address level. The WVDED has issued this Request for Comment Regarding Unserved Areas to support the effective allocation of broadband investments to unserved addresses and to avoid duplication of previously funded projects to the extent practical. Funding for broadband is anticipated through the American Rescue Plan Act.

The WVDED especially seeks data to narrow the number of addresses identified as “Likely Unserved” and “Likely Served,” to reclassify them as either “Unserved” or “Served.” After the conclusion of this request for comment, WVDED intends to publish a revised Target Area Map. The Preliminary Target Map and additional details on West Virginia’s Request for Comment Regarding Unserved Areas are available at https://broadband.wv.gov.

Webinar: Request for Comment Regarding Unserved Areas

The West Virginia Department of Economic Development (WVDED) and the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council will conduct a webinar regarding West Virginia’s Request for Comment Regarding Unserved Areas. The webinar will be held on: Wednesday, July 21 at 9:30am

To support the implementation of the State’s Broadband Investment Plan, the WVDED and the Broadband Council request comments from Internet Service Providers and communities to improve the accuracy of the maps that will be used to determine eligibility for funding under the American Rescue Plan Act. The webinar will include a review of the State’s Preliminary Target Map, demonstrate the data submission process, and provide an opportunity for discussion.

Registration
Registration will take place through EventBrite and the webinar will be hosted on Microsoft Teams. After registering for the webinar, you will receive an email from EventBrite confirming your registration. To access the link, you will need to create an EventBrite login. You do not need a Microsoft Teams account to join the webinar.

Registration for July 21 9:30am

We appreciate your participation and we look forward to seeing you soon!

West Virginia Statement on ARPA Broadband Investment Plan

The West Virginia Department of Economic Development and the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council are pleased to announce the West Virginia Broadband Investment Program. This program will utilize funding provided through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to expand broadband in West Virginia.

Check this page for program updates, descriptions, applications, and resources. This information will be updated pending issuance of guidance by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the federal agency charged with administering ARPA funding.

The ARPA will dedicate $2.17 billion to West Virginia through various funding streams. The Capital Projects Fund includes $138 million for broadband development in West Virginia.  “The focus of the Capital Projects Fund on the continuing need for connectivity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic complements the broader range of uses, including for broadband infrastructure, of the American Rescue Plan’s separate $350 billion Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.”

While the Capital Projects Fund is specifically for broadband infrastructure, State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds can also be dedicated to broadband development.  Recognizing this potential partnership, the State program will provide an opportunity to coordinate ARPA funding on state and local levels. The following funding is provided under each program:

  • The State Fiscal Recovery Fund includes $1,355,489,988 allocated to the State of West Virginia.
  • The Local Fiscal Recovery Fund includes funding for cities, counties, and non-entitlement entities in the following amounts:
    • $348,103,547 for 55 West Virginia Counties,
    • $168,188,715 for nine West Virginia Cities, and
    • $162,490,814 for Non-Entitlement Entities

West Virginia is embarking on a mission to bridge the digital divide. This program is designed to integrate the need for broadband connectivity with practical solutions to help connect communities throughout West Virginia. Working together, West Virginia can achieve a more connected future.

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Next Meeting

Wednesday, November 10, 2021/10:00 a.m.

Council Meetings are the second Thursday of every month unless noted otherwise.

Meetings are currently held via Skype due to COVID-19.

To join this meeting, register here: November 10, 2021

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  • Please register for public comment and hold any public comments until the public comment portion of the agenda