CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Virginia telecommunications company plans to spend $9.5 million to make high-speed Internet available to about 90 percent of McDowell County households by the end of the year.
Shentel -- also known as Shenandoah Telecommunications Co. -- will install hundreds of miles of fiber-optic cable to more than 10,000 homes in the county, the company announced Wednesday.
"We believe that our investment can help set the conditions for a bright and positive future in McDowell County," said Earle MacKenzie, Shentel's chief operating officer, in a prepared statement. "We have witnessed the importance of broadband in other rural communities as it provided enhanced educational opportunities, and assisted in creating new economic development opportunities, and are happy to help facilitate the same for McDowell County.
Shentel is one of 80 organizations and businesses taking part in a project called "Reconnecting McDowell." The project is designed to improve the southern West Virginia county's struggling economy, community services and schools.
Shentel's fiber-optic network will allow McDowell County residents to access some of the fastest Internet speeds in the state.
"This announcement brings new meaning to the words 'reconnecting McDowell, '" said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. "Shentel's plan to provide broadband access to McDowell County residents is an investment in the community and its future."
Edinburg, Va.-based Shentel expects to have some McDowell homes hooked up to fiber by the end of the month, while the bulk of households will have high-speed Internet by Dec. 31.
"This is a huge step toward connecting students and families to the information superhighway," said Bob Brown, who's coordinating the McDowell County revitalization project.
Shentel, a 110-year-old company, serves a dozen counties in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The company mostly serves rural markets and has more than 25,000 customers in West Virginia. Shentel said it has invested $35 million in West Virginia since 2009.
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.