Thirty percent of West Virginians do not have access to basic broadband services as defined by federal law, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
When you look at just the rural parts of West Virginia, that percent increases to 48.
House Bill 3093 aims to change that.
One of the biggest parts of the bill is it allows communities to form ‘internet co-opts.” These ‘co-opts,’ or cooperatives, would work together with a service provider to become their community’s own provider – thus reaching areas that may not have access to broadband.
Republican Delegate Roger Hanshaw of Clay County is the bill’s lead sponsor. While the bill has seen wide bi-partisan support, those who have voiced some concerns over the bill have mainly been internet service providers, which Hanshaw addressed in his floor speech.
“This is a bill that’s intended to promote competition, there’s no doubt about that," Hanshaw noted, "but it’s a bill intended to do so in places where competition doesn’t exist. The formation of cooperatives; the formation of cooperatives is intended to happen and will happen in places where there is not service. People who are receiving service now have no motivation to avail themselves of this process and are unlikely to do so.”
Only one other delegate spoke to the bill on the floor today. It passed 97 to 2 and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.