Sen. Manchin, US Commerce Secretary Raimondo announce $1.2 billion for ‘internet for all’

By Matthew Young, RealWV

WASHINGTON, D.C. – According to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, “Internet for all” may soon be more than just an unattainable rallying cry. 

During a Monday-afternoon Zoom meeting, hosted by both Manchin and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, it was announced that the federal government will be investing more than $1.2 billion into West Virginia’s broadband-infrastructure, for the sole purpose of connecting every mountaineer to the information superhighway. 

“We will now be able to compete with anybody anywhere in the world,” Manchin said. “The most important thing that I’m understanding, is with that amount of money that we’ve been guaranteed, that it won’t go out until the state is able to show how they’re going to implement it.”

“We’ve been working with all the different development offices around the state to show us where the needs are, and how they’re basically going to fulfill those needs so that we can make sure that we get the maximum effect for the dollars that we invest,” Manchin added. 

In total, $1,210,800,969.85 will be coming to West Virginia as part of the federal government’s  Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. BEAD is part of the newly-passed “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” the purpose of which is to provide “federal funding to make grants to Eligible Entities for broadband planning, deployment, mapping, equity, and adoption projects and activities.” BEAD is being facilitated through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). 

“The state has to give us a plan,” Secretary Raimondo said. “They can submit the plan as early as July 1, but we will not send any money to the state until the commerce department has approved of the plan.”

“Affordable, high-speed internet is essential for West Virginians to fully participate in the 21st century’s economy,” Raimondo added. 

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

West Virginia’s funding comes from the more than $42 billion earmarked by BEAD to expand high speed internet access in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and all United States-controlled territories. However, unlike many other parts of the country, West Virginia’s topography makes that expansion uniquely challenging. 

Manchin addressed this concern with a question: “How did everybody get electricity?”

“There’s a way to do it,” Manchin added.

Prior to the funding-approval, last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that their broadband coverage maps would be updated to reflect more than 85,000 unserved locations within West Virginia which had previously been unaccounted for. These updated maps were the result of numerous criticisms made regarding the FCC’s mapping system dating as far back as 2016.

“As the only member of Congress to formally challenge the FCC coverage maps and prove them wrong, I know firsthand how much work went into this announcement, and I want to thank the thousands of West Virginians that submitted their own speed tests,” Manchin said, before adding, “The citizens getting involved – they told you the need they have, and the desire to be able to have internet service.”

While no specifics were discussed regarding the potential consumer-cost of these forthcoming broadband services, Raimondo stressed that they will be “affordable.”

“At the end of the day, we’re not going to approve these plans unless we’re convinced that it’s affordable as well as accessible,” Raimondo said.

RealWV will provide updates regarding West Virginia’s implementation of the BEAD program as additional information is made available. 


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