Rural Broadband Funding Could Connect More Ohio Valley Communities To High-Speed Internet

Published by Ohio Valley ReSource on February 27, 2019

By Liam Niemeyer

Vivian Livingood is the mayor of Gilbert, a southern West Virginia town of under 500 people that has struggled for years without reliable internet. Livingood said that hampers Gilbert’s tourism, businesses and schools.

“We get kicked off the internet here every two minutes, and that’s if we can afford the internet,” Livingood said. “And it’s just pitiful service. It’s not fast.”

The town received a $75,000 community development block grant last year to study its internet needs. But Livingood said funding for actually building broadband infrastructure is still hard to find. That might change with new funding for a USDA Rural Development pilot program called ReConnect.

The program, started in 2018, allows companies, nonprofits, and communities in under-served regions to apply for loans and grants to fund broadband projects. The recent federal budget deal signed by President Trump on February 15 added $550 million more to the program, for a total of over $1 billion available.

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