CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Businesses and nonprofit groups have requested a combined $7.2 million in state grants to bring high-speed Internet to West Virginia's most rural areas.
State Broadband Deployment Council members said Monday that shows there's a growing demand for broadband service across the state. The council plans to distribute $4 million for broadband expansion projects in December.
"There's a pent-up demand," said Lee Fisher, a broadband council member who lives on a farm in Braxton County. "The grant requests exceeded the funds available. Even though some projects might not get funded, this strengthens our case with the governor and Legislature that we need more funding."
As of the middle of last week, not a single company or organization had applied for a council grant. That changed Friday afternoon. The council received 24 applications -- about twice as many as expected.
"All of them seem like solid applications," Fisher said. "They were very professional."
Sixteen companies and organizations requested a combined $5.2 million in state grants to build wireline and wireless broadband networks to homes and businesses in rural areas.
Meanwhile, eight groups requested $1.9 million to promote broadband demand in remote communities where few people have signed up for high-speed Internet, even though broadband is available.
Broadband council Chairman Dan O'Hanlon said the applicant list might shrink. The council plans to reject any incomplete submissions.
"These are just preliminary numbers," O'Hanlon said. "A [council grant review] committee will determine [today] whether the applications are complete. Some may be rejected."
The broadband council plans to post applicant names and project descriptions on the secretary of state's online State Register by Thursday. The council previously decided not to disclose the amount of grant money that each organization requests.
"It will give everyone an opportunity to see what has been proposed, but not the financial information," Fisher said.