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Will W.Va. Lawmakers Back Broadband Expansion?

chris_walters.jpg
Martin Valent
/
West Virginia Legislative Photography

AARP and Generation West Virginia co-hosted a press conference at the capitol Tuesday focused on the future of broadband in the state.

AARP is a group that represents retired West Virginians and Generation West Virginia is a group aimed at getting young people engaged in West Virginia’s future.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, 56 percent of West Virginians as a whole lack access to broadband. But in rural communities, 74 percent of West Virginians lack access.

“In order to create a vibrant and growing economy, our state needs to invest right now in the infrastructure of the future; high speed broadband," said Senate President Bill Cole, "so the businesses can grow and thrive, local county and state government can operate more efficiently, and schools at all levels can provide better opportunities to their students.”

Cole says he wants to get all of the stakeholders in the state involved to figure out what’s the best step forward for West Virginia.

Gaylene Miller is the State Director for AARP and Natalie Roper is the Executive Director for Generation West Virginia. Both women say broadband is not a generational issue and that young and old should come together to support legislation that would expand broadband access.

“It’s a complicated issue, but we need to be sure that we’re talking about bringing people together, so whether it’s private industry, state government, all of those working together to make broadband a reality in West Virginia is what’s really important,” Miller explained.

“We have to focus on the fact that broadband is an economic development issue;" Roper noted, "this is about keeping jobs here, bringing jobs here, and ensuring that all generations can work from home being able to work for employers, talk to employers in the state, access to healthcare, access to education; it’s about access and economic revitalization for the state. And when we focus on those things, it’s really hard to say no.”

Senator Chris Walters of Putnam County has proposed a bill this legislative session that focuses on constructing a statewide, fiber optic broadband infrastructure network. One that would be government funded and government owned.


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