Lewis Foundation Grants ROW To Help OneNet Expand To More Residents

The Jonathan D. Lewis Foundation is helping Hardy Telecommunications expand its fiber broadband network outside Wardensville, W.Va. The foundation, which funds and operates the farm-based non-profit enterprise Wardensville Garden Market, has granted the Hardy County internet provider right-of-way to connect its fiber-optic OneNet service to citizens along W.Va. 259 into Hampshire County.

“We can’t thank the Jonathan D. Lewis Foundation enough,” said Hardy General Manager/CEO Scott Sherman. “They understand the importance of broadband internet connectivity in today’s world, and they are doing their part to help their fellow Hardy County residents.”

Hardy Telecommunications built most of its OneNet network with the aid of a $32.7 million  grant/loan federal Broadband Initiatives Program funding award almost a decade ago. The initial plan was to include the area outside of Wardensville along W.Va. 259, but the company was unable to secure right-of-way despite trying three different routes, two through private land and another through farmland preservation territory. All of their requests were denied, stalling the project at the Wardensville town limit.

“We certainly appreciate Mr. Yandura (Paul Yandura, CEO of the Jonathan D. Lewis Foundation) and his board of directors for working with us,” said Hardy Assistant General Manager Derek Barr. “This is something that we’ve been trying to do for several years, years that Hardy County residents along W.Va. 259 had to go without an adequate internet connection. The Jonathan D. Lewis Foundation, through the Garden Market and other endeavors, is a big contributor to this community, and the granting of this right-of-way is an example of that commitment to help others.”

Mr. Yandura said it simply was a matter of helping the Hardy County community.

“We have heard firsthand from our neighbors and friends about the issues they face because of the lack of fast, consistent access to broadband. We also know that the connection will help with local economic development,” Mr. Yandura said. “We are lucky that Hardy Tel has been, and remains, committed to bringing broadband to rural America, and we are happy to help do our part.”

Because their original BIP project’s deadline expired long ago, Hardy Telecommunications is using its own funds to place fiber along W.Va. 259 to the Hampshire County line. From there, the line will become part of a federal Community Connect project that will continue along the highway to the High View area, then branch off onto Christian Church Road to end just outside of Capon Bridge. Hardy runs an existing network in Capon Bridge built by Hampshire County with Community Development Block Grant funding, and Hardy will pay to build the last remaining distance to connect the networks.

“This will provide a more secure, redundant service for existing customers as well as opening new internet connection options to reach the outside world,” Derek said.

The three-year Community Connect project will pass more than 600 homes in Hampshire County on its route to Capon Bridge. The Hardy-funded portion in Hardy County will allow important community institutions like West Virginia University’s Reymann Memorial Farm to have a fiber-optic internet connection, an important asset to the farm’s work in the state.

“We certainly wanted to get this done years ago, and fast, reliable internet has only become more important in our lives in the past couple of years,” Derek said. “Thanks to the Jonathan D. Lewis Foundation, we’re able to reach more citizens and fulfill our mission of improving the quality of life in the communities we serve.”

The Wardensville Garden Market is a farm-based, non-profit social enterprise in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia in the Wardensville area. Their mission is to help young people in Appalachia thrive by providing life-enriching experiences and discovery opportunities to help them realize their dreams. They do this through the development of income-producing enterprises such as their farm, garden market, bakery and production kitchen. The income produced by their enterprises is 100 percent reinvested back into the program.

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