6 West Virginia Counties Seek Federal Cash to Weigh Broadband Buildout

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Monongalia and Preston are among six counties applying for a new grant to assess the counties’ broadband capabilities.

The Taylor County Commission is acting as the applicant for the $125,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). In addition to Taylor, Monongalia and Preston, Marion, Harrison and Doddridge counties are covered by the application.

This grant program has been around since 1974, at first as Small Cities Block Grants, under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In the past, the grants were mostly used for sewer, water and housing projects.

Last year, HUD directed states to “evaluate the availability of broadband access and the vulnerability of housing occupied by low- and moderate-income households to natural hazard risks.”

West Virginia received $12,288,766 total for the program. Of that, $700,000 is for broadband and $300,000 for disaster recovery and resilience. All cities and counties can apply.

The State Development Office will coordinate the projects with the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council, the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, Office of GIS Coordination and the State Office of Technology.

An assessment of broadband in the state was done in 2014. This grant is to update that assessment. This is not a construction grant, though those are available.

Public input will be sought on the applications at public hearings:

  • Preston County Commission, 10 a.m. Monday, in the meeting room behind the courthouse annex.
  • Mon County Commission, 10 a.m. Wednesday, at 243 High St., Morgantown.
  • Marion County Commission, 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, 200 Jackson St., Room 403, Fairmont.
  • Taylor County held its hearing Thursday.
  • The deadline to apply for the grants is Oct. 31.
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