Facebook to help expand internet in West Virginia

March 5, 2019 GMT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Facebook says it’s going to help expand broadband internet in West Virginia.

The social media company announced a plan Monday to build a high-capacity fiber optic cable network in the state that internet providers will then be able to access.

“It’s almost like an interstate for the internet,” Kevin Salvadori, Facebook’s director of network investments, said of the cable system.

Work on the roughly 275-mile cable route is scheduled to start this year and is expected to take about 18 to 24 months to finish, according to the company. The plan is for the cable to stretch from Virginia to Ohio through the Kanawha Valley. Salvadori said the company is confident it will be able to install the cable through the state’s mountainous terrain.

West Virginia officials cheered the deal as a way to move the state’s economy forward.

“We absolutely have got something here that will open us up, will be the beginning of something that’s really, really significant,” said Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican, said the move will give rural parts of the state better internet access.

“Today’s announcement with Facebook is an important step toward ensuring our state has the critical infrastructure to support broadband deployment, and I know it will help so many in our state, especially the rural communities that are unserved,” she said in a statement.

The Federal Communications Commission says 82 percent of West Virginians have access to fixed broadband internet speeds.