|By Bob Weaver|
Three internet companies will receive about $12 million combined in federal funding to provide broadband access to West Virginia communities lacking it, including Calhoun, Clay, Marshall and Wetzel counties.
Funding from the Federal Communications Commission's Connect America Fund Phase II auction will go toward expanding internet access in 7,962 locations, sorted by census blocks, throughout West Virginia.
The project is one of many Washington initiatives over the past 30 years to bring broadband to rural areas, with few results.
According to the press release, the not yet finalized $12 million project would be dispensed over a 10 year period.
How slow can you get with a "high speed" project?
The project is not connected to the grassroots Clay, Calhoun, Roane Broadband Council efforts to bring broadband to those underserved areas.
The press release says California-based Viasat will be funded by $5.43 million from the FCC for work in West Virginia. The company, which uses satellite broadband technology, has been assigned 7,057 locations in West Virginia covering dozens of its 55 counties.
Calhoun, Clay, Marshall and Wetzel counties, however, have more locations than most assigned to receive broadband access from Viasat.
Viasat's West Virginia service is in the "baseline performance tier," or download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second, the FCC's minimum standard for broadband internet service.
The Hur Herald has utilized satellite "broadband" service for several years, which costs the Herald about $1,600 annually, forced to buy "tokens" when the metered data runs out each month, the service rarely measuring up to the FCC standard for broadband.
The other alternative, "Frontier High Speed."
Many of the internet improvement projects for West Virginia have the air of a "flim flam man," although some were well intentioned.
The failure of West Virginia being connected to real broadband has slowed education and business in the Mountain State, which is among the nation's worst. West Virginia is near the bottom in income and educational outcomes.
The federal government has failed to fund a nationwide broadband infrastructure, like they did in bringing electricity to rural America.
About $122.5 million in total funding has been allocated to Viasat for work in 20 states, making it one of the auction's biggest beneficiaries.
Bridgeport-based Citynet will be allocated $6.51 million from the FCC for work in 898 locations in Greenbrier, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Taylor and Webster counties.
"These funds, accompanied with our own private investment, will result in broadband being delivered at gigabit speeds to some of the most remote and rural areas in the state," said Chris Morris, Citynet's senior vice president of business development and external affairs.
The speed of Citynet and Hardy Telecommunications' service funded through the auction is in the "gigabit performance tier," as opposed to lower speeds for the Calhoun, Clay, Marshall, and Wetzel project.