SHEPHERDSTOWN — There’s a new infrastructure requirement and West Virginia is meeting it, according to Sen. Joe Manchin, who lauded an announcement by Frontier Communications this week that 400 more households in Martinsburg had been added to the company’s high-speed broadband service network.
That amount brings to about 10,000 the number of households and businesses in the Eastern Panhandle with broadband access since July 2010, said Frontier Southeast Region Senior Vice President and General Manager Dana Waldo, who joined Manchin at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center on Monday to participate in the announcement.
Waldo, who called broadband access the most important infrastructure challenge for the nation this century, said Frontier is well situated to address both rural and urban needs in West Virginia with its various products.
“Frontier is going to move this state from one of the least wired in the nation to one of the most wired in the nation,” Waldo said in remarks about the announcement. “And we believe that what we’ll be able to do, that our telecommunications network in West Virginia will be transformational. It will really have the ability to move this state forward in terms of economic development and quality of life.”
Frontier Eastern Panhandle General Manager Paul Espinosa said more than 96 percent of households and businesses throughout the Eastern Panhandle are now wired for high-speed internet, following recent hookups in Gerrardstown, Falling Waters, Inwood and Berkeley Springs. Espinosa said about 1,500 households had been added in the last month.
Manchin, who credited the effort with the willingness of the company to partner with the state, said he was encouraged by Frontier’s entry into West Virginia by its commitment to adding rural areas to its network.
“Frontier stepped up to the plate,” said Manchin about the company’s investment of $330 million, which was buttressed by about $126 million in federal statewide stimulus funds to develop the state’s high-speed network.
“We had one shot to get this money that was needed in order for us to expand rapidly,” Manchin said, adding the state had only 56 percent coverage in 2004, mostly within its urban areas. “It was unheard of to be able to do that — we’d have never been able to dedicate that kind of money in such a one pot to make things happen as quick as they have.”
The effort meant bringing broadband to some of the most difficult and remote regions to service, Manchin said.
“Our criteria was if there was an area in the state that had a public building, such as a school, a post office, a library, we’d make sure we’d wire that area and then we’d go from there,” he said.
Manchin was joined at the announcement by Berkeley County Delegate Walter Duke and Jefferson County Delegate John Doyle, as well as Penny Porter, representing the office of U.S. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, whom Manchin praised for his own efforts in supporting the state’s broadband expansion.