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RCDA director details broadband access progress in Mountain State

The Inter-Mountain photo by Haley Gordon Robbie Morris, executive director of the Randolph County Development Authority, spoke at the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly meeting Thursday.

ELKINS — Robbie Morris, the executive director for the Randolph County Development Authority, spoke about broadband progress at the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly meeting Thursday.

“The RCDA believes that in order to achieve our mission to grow the economy, there are many different things we have to do,” Morris said. “One of the big sections of that web is infrastructure, which comes in a lot of different forms.”

Morris believes broadband, or general internet access, is an increasingly important asset in the infrastructure and economic development of the state. His views led him to be appointed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomlin in 2015 to the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council.

The council took some time to research what the current status of internet connectivity was in the state and found that, despite available grants and funding, the various eligible government entities, companies and non-profits weren’t really sure how to apply for the money, Morris said.

“One of the things that we’ve done is partnering with our federal delegation and the USDA, mainly, because that’s where a lot of the money flows through,” Morris said. “We’ve been educating communities for the past four years on how to apply for these grants and how to set up plans so that when you do apply, you have a logical and methodical approach to expanding broadband. This has resulted in tens of millions of dollars more coming into the state since 2017.”

“We found, doing our research, that fixed wireless broadband towers are the most cost-effective way to rapidly expand broadband in a topographically challenged state like West Virginia,” he said. “You get the most bang for your buck by putting towers on top of mountains and broadcasting down into the hollows and valleys of our area.”

As for current and future progress, Micrologic and CityNet are both looking to expand internet options in Elkins and surrounding areas. Morris urges members of the community to reach out to these providers to see what they can do to lower bills and provide faster service while the broadband project is in progress.

At the end of the meeting, Lisa Wood, executive director for the chamber reminded members there will be no bi-monthly meeting in April. The next meeting will take place in June and focus on education.

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