Over $14 Million to be Invested in Broadband for Doddridge County
In 2019 the Doddridge County Commission allocated to the Doddridge County Economic Development Authority (EDA) $1.5 million to attract private investment to provide better broadband service to residents throughout the county. That allocation grew into a fully-funded $14 million project that will result in virtually 100% of Doddridge County residents having access to internet service within the next five years.
After the initial investment of $1.5 million was made, County Commissioner Ronnie Travis approached the Doddridge County Board of Education to explore whether that organization would be interested in partnering with the county. This led to the BOE donating an additional $600,000 to the EDA for broadband expansion purposes.
With $2.1 million in hand, the EDA sought to find an experienced and reliable internet provider to maximize its investment and develop a broadband network that best suits the needs of the county. Bridgeport-based Citynet soon rose to the top of the list as one of West Virginia’s leading broadband providers. In early 2020 the EDA officially entered into a public-private partnership with Citynet.
Initially the scope of the project was to provide wireless internet to approximately 80% of county residents. Knowing that federal money was available for broadband expansion, in July 2020 Citynet submitted a grant application to the USDA Rural Development Reconnect Program, and in November 2020 participated in a reverse auction for the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. In just five months, Citynet was awarded over $12 million to supplement the county’s original investment. The EDA, working together with Citynet, had succeeded in turning the County Commission and BOE’s allocation of $2.1 million into a $14 million infrastructure investment for Doddridge County.
Citynet is utilizing several communication towers to build the backbone of the broadband network. Through a mix of fiber optic cable and wireless technology, households will have access to broadband internet service that meets the FCC’s definition of true broadband. Since the Doddridge County Commission’s investment was used to build the backbone of the network, Doddridge County residents will be eligible for unlimited broadband for around $50 a month.
Portions of the wireless network may be turned on by the end of January. Citynet will then need a few weeks to ensure there are no service issues before scheduling hook-ups. On June 1, 2021, Citynet will launch a website which will give residents a projected availability date of service for their address. Only homes with direct line-of-sight of the communication towers will be able to apply for service. Being a massive infrastructure upgrade, this project will roll out in phases. It may take up to five years before service is available to every home in Doddridge County. In late February the EDA will publish Citynet’s service website address and contact information in local newspapers.