West Virginia saw biggest decrease in broadband speed during global pandemic

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RONCEVERTE, WV (WVNS) — During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people began relying on the internet to connect them with family members and friends.

In a recent study by PC Magazine, West Virginia saw a 13 percent decrease in broadband speed. This is the biggest decrease in the nation followed by Hawaii at eight percent.

“It has an effect on everybody,” State Senator, Stephen Baldwin, said. “It has an effect on our kids in school. It has an effect on our businesses. It has an effect on healthcare. If you’re trying to do a telehealth visit, you’ve got to have that broadband capacity.”

While WIFI Hotspots are becoming more accessible for families in Greenbrier County, Baldwin said this is not a long-term solution. In fact, Baldwin told 59News adding more people onto one network is like adding more cars to a traffic jam.

“If you have a two lane road and all the sudden you get a huge influx of traffic, there’s nowhere for anybody to go,” Baldwin said. “That’s essentially what’s happening with our system. Our system has become overwhelmed with all this new traffic because we don’t have the capacity, we don’t have the infrastructure for a modern broadband system in West Virginia.”

Baldwin said big companies are unwilling to expand their infrastructure and new companies are also unwilling to expand. There is a disconnect between speeds advertised and the actual broadband speed families experience daily.

Baldwin said there are ways West Virginians can combat decreased broadband speeds and build a new system, ourselves.

“Like the city of Stanton in Virginia, which is just an hour and a half from here, they did a public/private partnership between the city and a small company and they were able to offer their residents two gigabyte internet speed for, I think it was about $75 a month,” Baldwin said. “That’s in incredible speed that no one around here can get close to and we pay that much for satellite.”

Baldwin said it is very expensive to build a broadband network. There needs to be a real commitment to improving broadband speeds throughout the state.

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