2023 Statewide Broadband Study
Regional Optical Communications — a 19-county non-profit consortium dedicated to improving broadband access in West Virginia — took on the task of coordinating a statewide study aimed at identifying the current status of and future need for broadband service in West Virginia. The project, managed by engineering firm The Thrasher Group, took a county-by-county look at the addresses in the state that were classified as unserved or underserved broadband locations. This data was used to create preliminary routes along existing utility poles to identify how to bring fiber to those addresses in the future. These routes — and associated cost estimates — were developed to provide a roadmap for regional planning and development councils (RPDCs), counties, municipalities, and local internet service providers (ISPs) to develop projects that could be further designed and constructed. A compilation of this information was provided to each of West Virginia’s 55 counties.
The overarching goal of the study was to bring communities closer to closing the state’s digital divide. With unprecedented amounts of funding available at both the federal and state levels, having shovel-ready projects is immensely important — those closer to being ready for construction are far more likely to be funded than projects still in their infancy. The data collected in this study provides a strong baseline for RPDCs, counties, and ISPs to show funding agencies the measurable outcomes their projects will have. This can increase the likelihood of receiving the requested funding and gives a much shorter timeframe for finalizing route designs and moving projects to construction.