Broadband Expansion Bill aimed to be introduced during 2020 session

West Virginia

HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) – West Virginia is one of the worst states in the nation for broadband  service, and that’s no great news especially in the Mountain State’s rural areas

However, what is news is a group of delegates plan to address the problem next legislative session.

For the last three years, the state legislature has been looking at ways to ensure everyone in the state has access to internet service no matter where they are, and next session another bill will be introduced.

This one is focusing on making it easier for providers to do business in the state. 

“What we are doing is trying to make it a whole lot easier for the private sector to come in and run fiber middle-mile broadband. . . .thats the connection into people’s homes and businesses,” said Del. Daniel Linville, Cabell County, District 16.

Linville and group of co-sponsors plan on introducing a Broadband Expansion Bill on day one of the 2020 legislative session, but the delegate from Milton said the bill isn’t aimed at trying to deregulate the industry.

It is putting a “shot clock” on the approval process.

“We (state) are going to take a look at this. . . we are going to get you (private sector) an answer back on your application or permit, and if in 60 days we haven’t done what we need to do as a state you are approved,” said Linville.

Linville said in the past maybe there has been some extra hoops people have had to jump through and maybe the state hasn’t been as easy to work with as the private sector is trying to comply with those regulations, so one of the things they are trying to do is speed up the regulatory approval process.

Who also said that in addition to the approval process the Bills aims at building an inventory of pre-approved routes.

“It shows the private sector that we have already looked at this. All the regulations are good. . . send us in your applications and. . . lets start digging”.

Linville said that he hopes the Bill will have a positive impact on business, education, health care, and the overall economy.

“If you (private sector) didn’t know whether or not you were ever going to get an approval, you may never look at deploying a project”.

Some people in the health care sector are already in support of Linville’s Broadband Expansion Bill, so hospitals and doctors have better access to patients’ medical information in a timely manner, like cardiac monitoring devices.

“If they (patients) live in an area with no cell service, they have to leave their home and go to another area where they can transmit that information,” said Christy Franklin, director of the Neuroscience Center at St. Mary’s.

Franklin also said the state has a lot of shortages in medical specialists, and patients in rural areas depend on Tele-Health technology for treatment, and she hopes Linville’s Bill will help address that.

“[Tele-Health] can be from the patients home sometimes,  it can come from EMS, and it can be between hospitals or clinics. . . and if they are in an area where that information can’t be transmitted it’s delayed”.

It has been estimated that about 40 percent of West Virginia is either under-served by broadband or has no service at all, and Linville hopes his Bill will take a chunk out of that number.

13 News recently reported that the federal government may announce millions of dollars in rural broadband grants within the next week.

Some of that money could be coming West Virginia’s way.

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