Public and private efforts to connect West Virginia

Earlier this month, Verizon West Virginia announced that it will provide funding for a statewide map of current high speed internet deployment. The map will be produced by Connected Nation, a national non-profit that creates public-private partnerships to bring high speed internet to rural America. The organization has previously had terrific success with the Connect Kentucky program.

The county-by-county map will show which parts of West Virginia have high speed internet access and which parts do not. That's the crucial first step toward deploying high speed access to areas without service.

According to the state Public Service Commission, just 34.6 percent of households in West Virginia subscribe to high speed internet, compared to the national average of 49.6 percent. The poor state of high speed internet deployment in West Virginia means Verizon's actions are all the more important:

"Our collaboration with Connected Nation is the right solution at this crucial time, but it's only a beginning," said Verizon West Virginia President H. Stan Cavendish said. "We encourage other technology companies to join in."

Verizon also announced that it is speeding up deployment of high speed internet service in rural West Virginia:

Early this year, Verizon finished upgrading all 142 of its central switching offices in the state with high-speed digital subscriber line service, also known as DSL.

[Verizon West Virginia President H. Stan] Cavendish was expected to announce that the company plans to have equipped 260 remote facilities with DSL technology by the end of 2007, mostly in rural areas. Verizon said that by the end of next year it expects to have high-speed Internet service available to nearly 90 percent of homes and businesses in rural Boone County.

Both the mapping plan and the accelerated deployment are in line with West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin's goal of connecting all residents to high speed internet by 2010. This is a welcome development for rural West Virginians, many of whom must rely on slow dial-up connections:

Doug Roberts is one of those people. "These small drawings I can email those dial up," said Roberts while sitting in front of his computer at his small business, Cornerstone Consulting and Design. "Dial up", an almost archaic term in urban areas, remains the only option for the Boone County man. At one point, Roberts' mapping business paid 400 dollars a month for slightly faster than dial up service. "Sometimes it would take 2 hours to email a drawing to a coal company in Charleston and I could drive it there in 30 minutes so this will be a big asset for us when we get it."

Thanks to Verizon's stepped up efforts, Roberts' days of languishing on the wrong side of the digital divide might soon come to an end.

Verizon enters agreement for broadband survey of W.Va. (Daily News-Record)

Connected Nation

High Speed in the Blue Grass (Speed Matters)

Rural towns to get faster Internet access (Charleston Daily Mail)

High Speed Internet to Come to Rural West Virginia (WOWK TV – West Virginia)