Huntington holds broadband hearing

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HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — A big question in Huntington today is: what’s the future of broadband internet there? Discussion on this topic was held at a public hearing today about the prospect of new broadband infrastructure.

A panel made up of six prominent community leaders in the area heard testimony from 12 people about the unique challenges each face as business owners, education and health leaders, and residents of an area which all claim lacks reliable and speedy internet.

“Deployment of high speed broadband in Huntington was the single greatest initiative for economic development, economic advancement in our community.” 

Mayor Steve Williams, Huntington, WV

In the modern age, it’s nearly impossible to run a business, teach, or just plain socialize without internet connectivity. Never has it been needed more than right now, as tens of thousands of West Virginia school children are learning via the internet.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the challenges that our residents, businesses, and public education systems have with broadband service.” 

Mayor Steve Williams, Huntington, WV

Representatives of the area’s business and community sectors talked about the unique challenges they face in their respective fields and lives.

Mike Owens, president of Strictly Business Computer Systems, says it has hindered his business dealings on a number of costly occasions.

“With regard to reliability, we’ve been down about three or four times in the last six months, and that may not appear to be a big deal, but my downtime costs are somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000 dollars an hour.” 

Mike Owens, president, Strictly Business Computer Systems

Another, Mike Mullins, the CEO of Mountain Health Network, emphasized how vital fast service is to the medical industry as well.

“With many health events, such as a stroke, time is critically important and telemedicine, powered by a strong broadband connection, will make the difference between life and death.”

Mike Mullins, CEO, Mountain Health Network

All agree the pandemic has placed a unique spotlight on the problems unreliable and slow internet creates in the 21st century online environment.

“A lot of our troubles are surrounded by not having the broadband access that we need.” 

Mayor Chris Tatum, Barboursville, WV

The communications director for the City of Huntington says they reached out to all the existing internet providers in the area, but only one—ArxWeb—opted to participate.

A $2.5 million dollar grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission went to Thundercloud earlier this month to actually build new infrastructure for the high-speed internet.

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