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U.S. program to boost rural broadband in Va., W.Va., Mont., Alaska

Fri, 07/27/2012 - 12:12pm
The Associated Press

The Federal Communications Commission is targeting $2.1 million toward boosting access to high-speed Internet to rural Virginians.

The FCC's Connect America Fund will help CenturyLink connect more than 2,000 locations statewide to broadband service. Under the deal, CenturyLink must complete two-thirds of its new broadband installations within two years, and the rest by the third year.

FCC officials say that about 7,000 more people in Virginia will be able to access high-speed Internet through these efforts.

About 744,000 Virginians – nearly 38 percent of the rural population – lack access to broadband, the agency said. Virginia has the eighth-lowest rural broadband access in the nation.

While many areas of Virginia have access to high-speed Internet, the federal agency said that more than 80 percent of the population in places like Highland, Surry, Giles, Dickenson, Madison and Amelia counties lack broadband access.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said access to broadband means access to jobs and economic opportunities, as well as better education and healthcare.

Connect America is a national public-private effort to connect 19 million rural Americans to high-speed Internet by 2020.

As part of the first phase of the effort, officials say the more than $100 million in early public funding will be matched by tens of millions of dollars in private investment, serving 36 states with unserved rural communities. Officials say that nearly $46 billion in public investment from the Connect America Fund over the next 10 years will spur billions more in private investment.

Meanwhile, the FCC is targeting nearly $4.6 million toward boosting access to high-speed Internet to rural West Virginians.

The FCC's Connect America Fund will help Frontier Communications connect more than 5,900 locations statewide to broadband service. Under the deal, Frontier must complete two-thirds of its new broadband installations within two years, and the rest by the third year.

FCC officials say that more than 15,000 more West Virginians will be able to access high-speed Internet.

The agency says about 571,000 West Virginians – nearly 60 percent of the rural population – lack access to broadband, and the state has the lowest rural broadband access in the nation.

And CenturyLink is also getting $1.9 million to provide rural broadband Internet service in rural areas of Montana.

The money will help provide high-speed Internet service to 6,300 residents who currently lack access. The FCC says more than 55 percent of the state's rural population, or about 245,000 people, lack such access.

The FCC says CenturyLink must complete two-thirds of its new broadband commitments within two years, and the remainder by the third year.

The Louisiana-based company describes itself as the third largest telecommunications company in the United States.

Finally, thousands of rural Alaskans will have access to affordable, higher-speed Internet through the Connect America Fund. The FCC says Alaska Communications accepted nearly $4.2 million to increase broadband access in this state.

More than 14,000 rural Alaskans should benefit once the build-out is completed. Alaska Communications must complete two-thirds of its new broadband commitments within two years, and the remainder by the third year.

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