West Virginia Bill Would Expand High Speed Access

Residents of West Virginia, like many in rural America, are feeling the pain of the digital divide. A group of eight state lawmakers has decided it is high time for a change. A study in 2006 found that about 27.5 percent of households had high speed service, which is almost 10 percent below the national average of 36.5 percent. Approximately 25 percent of West Virginia households don't have access to high speed internet. Lawmakers have introduced a bill that aims to expand high speed internet access statewide.

Governmental and industry cooperation is essential in expanding service in rural areas.

"It's a chicken and egg thing,” said Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, the legislation’s sponsor. “If you don’t have the service, you can’t create a demand, and they won’t provide the service unless there’s a demand."

The bill includes the establishment of a Connectivity Advisory Commission and a Broadband Connectivity Fund. The 11 member commission would be charged with studying the current state of high speed internet accessibility and how to expand upon it. Included in the study will be a detailed mapping and assessment of existing high speed networking infrastructure. All of this will be done in a relatively short amount of time, the bill sets gives the commission until January 10th, 2008 to accomplish this.

Along with making high speed internet more available, it aims to significant increase demand.

… the bill would also aim to increase demand by teaming with early childhood education programs, to introduce young children and their families to broadband Internet in classrooms.

The Broadband Connectivity Fund which will hold money appropriated specifically for the expansion of high speed internet service and infrastructure. This will insure that the money will only be spent on improving internet infrastructure.

Moving on this bill will be a great step towards making universal high speed internet access available in West Virginia. Hopefully many other states will follow West Virginia's example and begin expanding high speed internet access.

W.Va. Senate bill would expand high-speed Internet access
Full Text of House Bill 2746 - Broadband Bill