BECKLEY,WV (WVNS) — Little to no broadband connection is not an unfamiliar issue for people in West Virginia.
When Senator Joe Manchin was the governor, he said he ran into problems getting substantial cell service in rural areas, let alone broadband. He saw the connection issues first hand, and since then made it his mission to get everyone in the state connected.
However, even as online education became a major component of the school year, Manchin said he had to fight just get hotspots in every community.
“Their parents drive up to the front of the school to pick up their lesson assignment or do their homework that should never happen,” said Sen. Manchin.
Manchin said there are two roadblocks keeping legislature from implementing broadband improvements: reverse auctions and incorrect coverage maps.
Reverse auctions showed while the need for improvements were present in the state, companies that are able to bring those improvements, benefit more from doing so in an area with a larger population.
Sen. Manchin said while Governor Jim Justice planned earlier in the pandemic to allot hundreds of millions of dollars towards improvements, the state received only half of the promised money because of reverse auctions.
“20 percent of the population lives in what we considered rural America, our entire state is considered rural. If they put 10 billion dollars to fight broadband, rural broadband would only get two billion,” said Sen. Manchin.
Sen. Manchin said broadband improvement funds are allocated to areas in need, but according to the Federal Communications Committee, ninety percent of the state population is covered.
“They were distributing money based on the maps that were erroneous saying we were covered but we weren’t so we are getting that corrected,” said Sen. Manchin.
Manchin said if any silver lining can be found from the pandemic, it’s that broadband connection is one of the main problems that cannot be put off any longer.
“I can say help is on the way, but they have been hearing that for ever I understand that, but I can tell you that is accurate today there is help on the way,” said Sen. Manchin
Sen. Manchin said improving broadband will not only serve to improve education, but it will help to attract new businesses and tourists as well. He believes once the roadblocks are cleared, it will only be a short matter of time before real improvements are made.