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First to Funding: West Virginia Partners with Tilson to Become a BEAD Program Leader

In April 2024, West Virginia became one of the first states in the nation to receive approval of its Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) application, a historic $42.5 billion program designed to bring high-speed internet to all Americans. With the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) approval, West Virginia is one step closer to accessing $1.2 billion in funding for projects aimed at bringing broadband internet to areas in the state that have long been underserved or completely devoid of connectivity.

“Tilson played a major role in developing West Virginia’s comprehensive broadband plan and grant programs, helping us bridge the digital divide and advance broadband infrastructure across the state. They continue to support our expansion of broadband access to residents of West Virginia,” said Kelly Workman, Director of the West Virginia Department of Economic Development’s Office of Broadband.

West Virginia sets a precedent for other states seeking to participate in the BEAD program and addresses the urgent need to narrow the digital gap across the nation. Recognizing the significance of broadband and the lack of access in their state, West Virginia emerged as a BEAD program leader through strategic planning and partnerships with state entities and national experts.

West Virginia’s Commitment to Digital Equity

West Virginia has long been aware of the economic, safety, and quality of life benefits that high-speed internet brings, while also acknowledging that their mountainous geography makes deploying broadband especially challenging. Currently, 35% of West Virginians live in an area that is either completely unserved or underserved by internet access.

To bridge the digital divide, the West Virginia Legislature formed the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council in 2016. This early action made it clear that the state was committed to extending broadband access to those underserved areas of West Virginia.

Additionally, in 2021 the West Virginia Office of Broadband was created within the West Virginia Department of Economic Development (WVDED) to take advantage of broadband funding initiatives at the federal level. The proactive creation of this broadband office laid important groundwork for broadband access in the state. When the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed in 2021, West Virginia was ready to participate in both the Digital Equity Act and the BEAD program.

Evan Feinman, the Director of BEAD for NTIA commended West Virginia’s Broadband Office, saying to reporters in April, “It is the case that it’s one of the finest broadband offices in the country, and they just consistently do really, really excellent work.”

With strong leadership, clear priorities, and an established office in place, West Virginia was ready to meet the demands of the BEAD funding program. 

“Everyone on our team understands the urgent need to expand broadband to all West Virginians,” West Virginia Secretary of Economic Development, Mitch Carmichael, said in a statement in April 2024. “We cannot overstate the importance of this critical infrastructure to West Virginia’s economic future. The West Virginia Office of Broadband has worked incredibly hard through a rigorous process to reach this point and we look forward to working with NTIA and all of our federal partners to move as quickly as possible to deploy broadband throughout the state.”

The Path to $1.2 Billion in BEAD Funding

Navigating federal programs such as BEAD requires intensive planning, rigorous reporting, and a deep understanding of broadband infrastructure. To supplement the West Virginia Office of Broadband’s existing knowledge and capacity, the state turned to Tilson’s Broadband Consulting experts for support.

Tilson and West Virginia have worked together on previous broadband initiatives through the American Rescue Plan Act’s (ARPA) Capital Projects Fund and State Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, so it was a natural partnership once the BEAD program was announced.

Together, Tilson worked with West Virginia to assess the state’s current broadband infrastructure, prepare detailed plans for future efforts, define criteria for awarding project funds, and collaborate with stakeholders and community groups statewide to ensure the needs of the residents were being met. All of these activities needed to be documented and shared with NTIA for BEAD approval, including the following federal requirements, which have been delivered by Tilson and WVDED:

BEAD Requirements DeliveredSummary
Digital Equity PlanOutlines where BEAD funding will go to address digital equity.
Five Year Action PlanDetails how WVDED will allocate its $1.2 billion in BEAD funding.
Initial Proposal Volume IOutlines the state’s process for determining when a location is eligible for BEAD funding.
Initial Proposal Volume 2Defines key elements for implementing the state’s BEAD plan.
Deployment Program ProceduresEstablishes program procedures for the deployment of high-speed broadband access across West Virginia.

Tilson is a proud partner of WVDED and is honored to have contributed to West Virginia’s successful approval for $1.2 billion in funding to achieve universal broadband coverage and digital equity throughout the state. With funding secured, West Virginia and Tilson are poised to bring broadband plans to fruition to deploy reliable, high-speed internet for all West Virginians.

As West Virginia’s U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito said, “West Virginia is another step closer to using our $1.2 billion towards efforts to better connect homes, business, and classrooms across the state.”

Partner with Tilson, Your BEAD Expert

Tilson’s Broadband Consulting team played a pivotal role in West Virginia’s groundbreaking BEAD program from planning to implementation. With experts located across the country, we are committed to ensuring every American has access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet.  

Contact us for a free consultation to learn more about our services or to discuss your specific broadband connectivity goals.

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