Tyler and Wetzel counties in northern West Virginia received about $5.6 million in federal grants and loans in December to increase access to broadband internet. The funding comes from the ReConnect Program, a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative focused on improving rural availability of high-speed internet by funding facilities and equipment. In the case of Tyler and Wetzel, the program will support fiber optic cables that reach residents’ living and working spaces. The two counties are also deploying additional funding sources.
In an interview with WTOV9, Eric Peters, who is a development authority in Tyler County, said the county seat will have 10 times the bandwidth that is currently provided. Chad Rupe, commissioner of the Rural Utilities Service, told the station that more internet access will encourage young people to remain at home, and help preserve the community.
Counties can apply for the next cycle of grants and loans offered by the ReConnect program on the USDA website until March 16. — By Finn Halloran