By an Executive Order signed last week and a letter to the Department of Commerce and the West Virginia Economic Development Authority, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice raised the regulatory caps on EDA insurance funds so broadband providers can expand access in rural areas around the state and increase broadband infrastructure.
The Governor’s order temporarily suspends the Broadband Infrastructure Loan Insurance program’s regulatory caps which will allow providers to access increased letters of credit to support the full utilization of potential available resources to expand broadband in the state, including an FCC program that has allocated approximately $766 million to the Mountain State.
The Governor’s letter to the Department of Commerce and the EDA directs the EDA to limit the applications approved to the amount necessary to fully secure letters of credit for the first year of this federal program. Together, these actions effectively raise the regulatory caps on this fund in order to take full advantage of an incredible opportunity.
"Our constituents are tired of political bickering and want action and access to broadband. The Governor's order provides another tool in our toolbox to expand access in the most rural areas of our state," said West Virginia Department of Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch. "Other politicians are recommending yet another delay in this process, but we need to act now, support our local providers and pursue these resources aggressively."
The Broadband Infrastructure Loan Insurance program, administered by the West Virginia Economic Development Authority, helps providers interested in bidding for these broadband projects. Subject to a liquidity determination and cash availability, this program makes funds available to the EDA in the form of a nonrecourse revolving loan for the purpose of insuring loans for broadband expansion projects.
The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, administered by the Federal Communications Commission, provides billions for deploying high-speed broadband networks across under-served regions in rural America.
“The goal of the Governor's action is to provide as many providers as possible the resources needed to bid aggressively and proactively in the upcoming auction. We want to bring broadband to these 121,000 unconnected homes as soon as possible,” Gaunch said. “The Governor is acting now to support the development of the infrastructure necessary to deploy broadband in these communities.”