West Virginia Cooperative Will Use Grant, Loan, Collaboration for Better Rural Connectivity

As the USDA continues to award federal ReConnect funds for rural connectivity, we're glad to see that communities in West Virginia are not being ignored. Most recently, the Harrison Rural Electrification Association (HREA) announced that they will dedicate ReConnect grant funding of approximately $18.75 million to deploy Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) in rural sections of their service area.

Combining Funding and Collaboration

The project will bring more than 6,300 households high-quality connectivity along with five educational facilities and another community facility. The deployment will cover approximately 354 square miles within Harrison, Lewis, Upshur, Barbour, and Doddridge counties. Once completed, the project will provide better connectivity to around 16,000 residents.

In total, the project will cost an estimated $25 million and HREA will use a $6.2 million loan from CoBank to cover the difference. They plan to complete the project within 3 1/2 years and cooperative leadership intend to have the project ready for bids by the end of February.

Rather than offering Internet access directly to members, the cooperative will work with Prodigi Fiber, a private sector ISP that works exclusively in West Virginia and only with FTTH connectivity. The co-op will lease the infrastructure to Prodigi and dedicate the proceeds from the lease toward the CoBank loan payments.

Early Excitement

On the HREA Facebook page, locals have expressed their excitement at the prospect of better connectivity. Some note the need for better reliability while others are looking for better speeds or alternatives to current options. 

Lenny W.: Was excited to get the email. This is great for the rural areas of this county. Are there any maps or projections on what areas are going to start and when? I’ll sign up for whatever is $75-$100 per month.

Ken C.: Whoooohoooo

Sharon L.: Please, please come to Sardis!! I despise Frontier.

Kellie L.: Awesome news!!! I also despise Frontier.

Joey E.: I’d pay $200 a month for reliable internet! If there’s a goal that needs to be met let me know I’ll go door to door lol

Karin W.: Excited...thanks so much for providing services to the rural areas.

Within the next month, the cooperative plans to solidify their deployment plan. They plan to use their existing poles, but HREA CEO Terry Stout notes that the USDA requires ReConnect grant fund recipients to obtain six bids. “We’ll be lucky to find six, but we will find six, and we’ll award the contracts from there,” he said. At this early stage, HREA isn't sure which areas will be the first to benefit. Once they've determined how to proceed, they plan to hold informational meetings.

“Nothing could really be done until after that announcement,” he said. “Now we’re working on getting the agreements in place to tie in the fiber to the worldwide fiber network. … That will dictate everything else. Where the tie-in is will dictate where we start, because we’ll start that location first.”