Internet service providers are closing in on broadband options in rural Marion County

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September 17 – FAIRMONT – The sluggish internet speeds plaguing much of rural Marion County are on track for a major speed boost.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced much of daily life online, which has highlighted the poor state of internet availability in West Virginia. This has pushed government at all levels to direct funds to projects aimed at addressing the disparity.

One of the oldest of these funds is the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Development Opportunities Fund, which was established in October 2020, months after the pandemic began.

Bridgeport-based CityNet is one of two companies to have received RDOF funds for internet projects in Marion County. Thursday, Del. D-Marion County’s Joey Garcia joined CityNet Engineering Vice President Eric Price to give Marion County residents an update during a meeting at North Marion High. Frontier was the second company to receive broadband funding, and Garcia plans to hold a similar public meeting with them soon.

Price told guests that CityNet plans to begin the design process around this time next year. The funding received through the RDOF stipulates that the company’s plans must be executed within five years.

“The three main areas they will work to cover are Grant Town, Fairview and parts of Mannington,” said Garcia, a member of the House of Delegates Technology and Infrastructure Committee. “The important thing for me about this meeting is that we come to people and answer questions and show concrete plans to make this happen once and for all.”

And more broadband funding is on its way to West Virginia. The US bailout contained millions of dollars earmarked for broadband in West Virginia, and the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill passed in August 2021 also targeted maligned areas.

Plans call for the installation of fiber-based infrastructure, which will bring speeds up to 1,000 times faster than what is currently offered in some of the service areas.

“We’re going to build a lot of fiber in Marion County,” Price said. “Some areas still use DSL phone service…which is quite a slow service. Other places have quality cable TV service, which is limited to more populated areas. These are both from the order of the megabit, but the fiber optic service offers is 1,000 megabits or 1 gigabit of download speed.”

For typical web browsing, those speeds aren’t too different, but for streaming movies and Zoom calls, the difference is stark.

Both Price and Garcia share the same goal of bringing the best possible Internet service to as many West Virginians as possible.

Recently, the Fairmont City Council approved a deal to pursue fiber projects within the city limits, boosting speeds in more developed areas alongside rural ones.

“All of these things together hopefully get us to a point where every part of Marion County has high-speed internet access,” Garcia said. “We have seen with COVID students who need to do things from home, do their homework online or even learn on a zoom call.

“There are also a large number of people working from home and the lack of quality service is making it more difficult in areas like northern Marion County and that is something that should help.”

Contact David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at [email protected]

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