When social media giant Facebook announced last year that it was planning to construct a high capacity fiber optic cable network across 275 miles of West Virginia, many in the area wondered if the Facebook project would reach the deep south coalfield counties, a region that is still lacking when it comes to the widespread availability of high-speed broadband.

The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes, as the project has now reached our region. Construction crews have been working in recent weeks along U.S. Route 460 just east of Princeton burying the orange and blue fiber optic lines that should eventually help in bringing high-speed broadband to remote parts of the area.

Work on the Facebook New River Project, which is part of a larger broadband deployment effort, began last fall. The company is extending fiber-optic cable from Ashburn, Va. to Ohio. The completion date for the project is late 2021.

Part of the purpose of the project is to establish new data centers for Facebook, and a long-term goal is to enable broadband providers to expand networks into communities along the route.

“We hope that Facebook’s infrastructure will be a source of bandwidth for unserved areas at some point, but we don’t have anything in place formally at the moment,” Jason Roberts, executive director of the Region One Planning and Development Council in Princeton, told the Daily Telegraph last week.

Facebook’s investment is expected to result in better internet speeds and will improve internet connections across West Virginia while expanding connectivity.

In today’s high-tech society, broadband is as essential to economic development and tourism growth as modern roads, water and sewer infrastructure. Companies who are looking at the region for a potential expansion or relocation project expect high-speed broadband service to already be available.

Even without a local data center, having the Facebook New River Project run through Mercer County is still a win for the region. The fact that part of this project is now being developed in Mercer County also provides local development officials another tool when it comes to marketing and showcasing our region to prospective businesses and industries.

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