Community partnership looks to improve connection - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Community partnership looks to improve connection

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West Virginians soon could experience fewer dropped calls while also reading the "no service" display on their cellular phones less.

Ted Kula, county planning official with the Summers County Commission, said he wants to collaborate on the idea of more cellular coverage while keeping the beauty of the state's mountain tops clear of too many towers.

"We obviously want to be able to bring the best level of access for cell coverage (and) wireless broadband to our residents," Kula said of outlying county residents. "You don't want cell towers on every ridge, but you do want the most competition."

Kula said it would be counterproductive to "re-invent the wheel," so to speak, when it comes to allowing for cell coverage in all counties in the southern part of the state.

Which is why he believes it is important to work together.

The proposal Summers and other county officials, with the help of the West Virginia University Law Clinic, have come up with would allow counties to work together when providing cell and internet coverage for West Virginia residents.

That's where West Virginia's law school comes in.

Jesse Richardson Jr., lead land use attorney with West Virginia University College of Law's Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic, said the model ordinance they helped create for Summers County could ultimately be adopted by other counties throughout the state.

Richardson said the plan will require counties to come up with a comprehensive plan before being compliant with West Virginia law and federal regulations.

"(Counties will need) a minimum plan to show they've looked at everything to come up with a strategy for (that) particular community," Richardson said. "Counties in West Virginia are going to have to get their ducks in a row so if anybody challenges their denial of a cell tower they can say they have a plan."

If they are denied, under the plan Richardson has worked on, the court can potentially uphold it as long as they go through those steps.