Broadband technology is an important tool in how we stay connected, but in most parts of West Virginia, it’s leaving many residents behind in the informational age.
On Tuesday, Senator Joe Manchin and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler visited four communities in West Virginia to talk with stakeholders in the state’s communication technology sector. Manchin and Wheeler visited Thomas, Mt. Storm, Moorefield, and Wardensville.
“People who want to be here and live here in this beautiful state, and want to make a living they need to be connected to the world,” said Manchin.
State congressional leaders have long called for more investments in broadband. West Virginia ranks 45th in terms of connectivity. In Tucker County, approximately 7,000 people don’t have access to wired broadband. While 500 in the county don’t have access to any wired internet. 28 percent of the state’s population is underserved.
“West Virginia has unique challenges. So what we got to do is put together a package of both federal activities, encouraging investment, supporting interconnection among carriers so they can do business with each other, and challenging local and state governments to do their role as well,” said Wheeler.
Manchin said some of the largest companies in the state have a concern of not getting connected. Manchin said residents deserve the opportunity to compete globally.
“The topography we have, the geography we have here makes it more challenging, and can be more expensive. So it takes everyone to work together. We can’t expect the federal government or the FCC to do it all for us,” Manchin said.
Tucker County Commissioner Diane Hinkle said the state needs to be at the table with companies when it comes to getting funding for broadband.
“We just need the resources to push it to the next level. Tourism is our lifeline right now. In order to capture that opportunity, the people who are coming here need to be connected,” said Hinkle.
“Let’s start thinking about we use this new network to create new jobs in West Virginia. To open up new opportunities, because we’ve moved from the industrial age to the informational age, and the informational age requires broadband connectivity everywhere,” Hinkle said.