HUNTINGTON, WV (LOOTPRESS) – Gov. Jim Justice joined officials from the City of Huntington, Marshall University, and other local leaders at Pullman Square today for a ceremony to present a $2,353,788 million check to Thundercloud Inc. – a nonprofit organization focused on the provision and improvement of broadband internet access in the Huntington region – in support of their major upcoming broadband expansion project to make Huntington the first “Gigabit City” in West Virginia.”
“This is an absolutely worthy project that’s going to make such a difference in this city, in this community, and across all of West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “Anytime we can help make things better for 500 businesses, if we have the dollars, we ought to pursue it. And this project is surely going to get us off and running.”
The check, which was made possible thanks to Gov. Justice’s West Virginia CARES Act Broadband Fund, doubles the $2,353,788 provided to Thundercloud earlier this month through one of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER grants. The project includes beginning deployment of an 11.36 mile underground broadband fiber backbone, connecting the Village of Barboursville to the heart of downtown Huntington.
The expansion also includes the deployment of a last-mile, underground fiber ring, linking over 500 businesses to gigabit-speed broadband, creating the state’s first “Gigabit City” – delivering service that far exceeds current speeds.
Gov. Justice has made establishing broadband connectivity all across West Virginia one of his top initiatives.
Last month, he signed an executive order that will allow West Virginia to leverage $766 million over the next 10 years to connect 121,000 West Virginia homes to world-class broadband, particularly those in currently underserved areas across the state – part of the $1 billion that is planned for broadband development throughout the Mountain State.
Local leaders also expect that the Thundercloud project will position Huntington to compete with cities across the world in the high-tech world of the future.
“We know that the leverage on this project is tremendous,” West Virginia Senator Robert H. Plymale said. “What you will see is, from the $2.3 million investment from the State and the $2.3 million from ARC, this will turn into a $15 million to $17 million-dollar project.”
“This project can be transforming to our whole region,” Sen. Plymale continued. “The Governor understood that, he saw that. It’s a great day that we’re here, I’m telling you that I couldn’t be more excited, and Governor, I appreciate and really thank you for your vision, your ability to see that this is something that could be done, and we’ll make sure that we make you proud as we move forward.”
“Governor, there are two words that are seldom used as much as they need to be: thank you,” Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said. “Eight years ago, when I first became mayor, I asked my transition team to bring me a list of priorities that we must pursue. The one recommendation that they said that we must do if we hoped to be able to revive our economy and be able to compete internationally was to deploy high-speed broadband in our city.
“We have managed to get it done, and when you look around at all who are involved, it’s absolutely amazing,” Mayor Williams continued. “
“A special thanks to our Governor for supporting this project and seeing the potential of broadband connectivity as a key factor for the success of the future of our citizens and our businesses,” said Marshall University President Jerome A. Gilbert, Ph.D.
“The future is brighter today because of Thundercloud,” President Gilbert continued. “Thank you, Governor.”
“As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, people need to be able to access healthcare services through a number of means,” said Abby Reale, Director of Advocacy at Mountain Health Network. “A strong broadband infrastructure helps us address gaps in access, particularly for those with limited internet access.”
“Proper connectivity throughout the area helps us provide patients with a more seamless and connected experience,” Reale continued. “We applied the Governor, Senator Plymale, Delegate (Daniel) Linville, and all others who have collaborated to make this a reality.”
“Governor, I want to thank you for your support, not just on the Thundercloud project, but on your billion-dollar commitment to broadband internet expansion throughout our state,” West Virginia Delegate Daniel Linville said.
“Today is a great day for Cabell County, for Huntington, for our region, and for all of West Virginia,” Del. Linville continued. “It’s an honor to be a part of this project, and we’re not finished, we’re just getting started.”
“Governor, I want to say thank you,” said Doug Tate, President of Alpha Technologies. “It’s easy for us, as a technical company, to build fiber data centers. It’s not easy to have the vision and the foresight and the leadership that you’ve given us.”
“I want to expand on the ability to build fiber,” Tate continued. “It’s not just potentially 500 businesses, it’s the economic impact of those businesses, it’s the education for kids, it’s the hospitals, it’s the schools. So, when we look at this project, while it’s the cornerstone of a new era of building, the ramifications could go for years.”
“I know this project will become an incredible reality for the area,” Gov. Justice said. “West Virginia is so deserving of this. We’ve got the ability to blanket our state in broadband connectivity that’s going to enable us to be the best of the best.
“I want us to keep moving forward and keep making things happen,” Gov. Justice continued. “I couldn’t be happier about today.”