"I've said this many times, it is about McDowell County but it is also about rural America," said Manchin, wife of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. "If we can create the model that will work, then that could be replicated across the country."
McDowell County has lost nearly 100,000 residents since 1965, as area coal mines have closed. The county leads West Virginia in teen pregnancy and school dropout rates and has high levels of prescription drug abuse.
The rate of deaths from drug abuse in McDowell County -- 38 per 100,000 people -- is the fifth highest of any county in the country.
More than 70 percent of children in McDowell County live in a house that does not have an adult with a job.
"A remote county where more than a third of the residents live in poverty, two-thirds of homes are substandard and only half the residents have a high school degree," Clinton said. "A place, like too many in the United States today, where community institutions are crumbling, social and public health indicators are cratering, and it can feel like life is coming apart at the seams."
Reconnecting McDowell is in the second year of a five-year program.
So far, the program has wired all McDowell County schools with high-speed Internet and is in the process of bringing access to about 10,000 homes in the county. The state Board of Education recently returned control of the county's school system after 12 years of state control.
Reach David Gutman at david.gut...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.