In what he called an “incredible announcement,” Gov. Jim Justice announced Thursday that broadband network operator Zayo Group will build a fiber network route crossing 200 miles of West Virginia.
“I’m a long ways from being an expert on broadband, but I’ve got enough sense to know the kids of today have got to be connected,” said Justice, announcing the broadband route linking Columbus, Ohio, with Ashburn, Virginia, a small town near Dulles International Airport that is one of the world’s leading Internet distribution hubs.
Jack Waters, a West Virginia University graduate and chief technology officer for the Boulder, Colorado-based company, said construction of the network would begin early next year and will take two years to three years to complete.
Details of the agreement were not available Thursday, and the Governor’s Office did not respond to requests for more information.
During Thursday’s news conference, Justice did say that the state would be exchanging access to right-of-ways for a “significant amount of high quality fiber.”
In September, Justice announced that West Virginia would provide broadband developers with free access to state right-of-ways as a way to encourage construction of broadband networks in the state.
Judging from the map displayed at the live-streamed news conference, it appears the only direct route between the two cities would necessarily have to pass through West Virginia. Waters said Thursday the exact route and rights-of-way are yet to be determined.
He said it was Zayo’s first major investment in West Virginia. However, records show that, in 2008, Zayo bought an 8,500-mile fiber network serving 10 states, including West Virginia, from Bridgeport-based Citynet.
- Justice said he is aware that settlement negotiations to resolve a state lawsuit against one of the nation’s largest drug shippers, McKesson Corp., are ongoing but said he wouldn’t be privy to know if a settlement is pending.
“All the parties that are working on it are trying to come to a fair settlement and a fair number,” Justice said.
Justice’s comments come a day after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., called a news conference to criticize state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, contending that “reliable sources” indicated that Morrisey is planning to settle the lawsuit over the distribution of prescription opioid drugs for $35 million.
Manchin called on Justice to block the alleged settlement, which he called a “sweetheart settlement” and a “horrible deal.” Morrisey is running against Manchin in the Nov. 6 general election.
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday the state has not received a settlement offer from McKesson attorneys and said no settlement announcement is pending.
Justice on Thursday said any settlement prior to the election would be politicized, noting that, no matter what the amount would be, “One side would say, ‘That’s not enough.’ ”
“Our people need to work through this and come up with what’s achievable and fair,” he added.
- Justice said discussions by college presidents calling on him to allocate $10 million from the governor’s civil contingency fund to help smaller state colleges make up for ongoing budget cuts is simply not feasible.
“There’s not $10 million there that I have discretion over to do that,” Justice said.
Indeed, while the civil contingency fund contains nearly $57 million, about $48.5 million of that amount is committed to cover the costs of natural disaster recovery efforts, with about $8.4 million available in unencumbered funds.