Facebook's plan to deploy about 275 miles of high-speed fiber optic cable through West Virginia as part of the social media giant's intention to build infrastructure between Virginia and Ohio will empower the beleaguered state to bring broadband to many rural residents and businesses, according to the governor.
West Virginia hopes to partner with congressional delegates and private partners to leverage the broadband foundation Facebook subsidiary Middle Mile Infrastructure will construct, said Governor Jim Justice in a statement. The work, which is slated to start this year, will take between 18 and 24 months, according to Middle Mile predictions.
"Broadband development is absolutely critical to moving West Virginia forward," said Gov. Justice. "An investment of this magnitude in our state is really big news and will help us continue to show the world how great West Virginia truly is."
Added US Senator Shelley Moore Capito: "[The] announcement with Facebook is an important step toward ensuring our state has the critical infrastructure to support broadband deployment, and I know it will help so many in our state, especially the rural communities that are unserved."
In January, the state's House of Delegates' committee on technology and infrastructure approved a bill that would allow broadband providers to install their technologies on rights-of-way and poles and that also required utilities to explore whether they could deliver broadband via their existing infrastructure. House Bill 2005, the Broadband Expansion Act of 2019, became the third broadband-related bill to pass in three years, according to the legislature's newsletter.
Under the rule, utilities must study their infrastructure to determine if they can connect broadband in a pole's "hot zone," or the part of a pole where electricity runs. Power companies then would run their own fiber-optic cables in this area, then lease access to broadband to service providers, said House Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R-Clay).
"Right now, that’s off limits, so utilities have to run below it," he said. “What this creates is essentially a hard stop on where the fiber can be run.”
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