CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Every year the West Virginia legislature talks about improving broadband access in the state.
This year, there’s a bill moving quickly through the legislature that aims to do just that.
Back in the fall of 2020, a West Virginia broadband availability map was published detailing just how spotty broadband availability is in the Mountain State.
The map featured speed tests and used information directly from West Virginians after the FCC’s map was deemed inaccurate.
“There are some large areas that don’t have it that are very, very rural but then also you’ll find there are 15 homes on a ridge-top somewhere who don’t have it but then a mile or so in any direction there’s at least one provider,” said Del. Daniel Linville (R-Cabell).
As the pandemic played out, the lack of broadband highlighted the challenges with telehealth, remote learning by school kids, and mom and dad trying to work from home.
Linville is the lead sponsor of HB 2002 and says his bill aims to not only expand broadband to those who don’t have it, but also incentivize competition.
More providers sharing the same trench for their fiber lines reduces the cost per mile to get broadband to more areas.
“We know that there are West Virginia companies that are actively investing in the state of West Virginia to be a broadband internet provider,” he said.
Linville says broadband access is one of the few issues that has bipartisan support in the state.
Federal support for broadband is also coming under the newest COVID-19 relief package with Sen. Joe Manchin (D – West Virginia), who voted for the package, writing in a statement, “This pandemic also impacted our students, communities, families and small businesses. West Virginia alone will receive $140 million for broadband expansion.”
The bill now heads to the Senate for a vote.