Americans depend on the Internet to engage in a wide range of activities.
You might use it for research, studying your favorite subjects as you learn more about whatever piques your interest.
Or maybe you use it to keep in touch with family, putting to work social media platforms to stay connected across the miles.
You might even use it to log into the digital version of this very newspaper, preferring to read your news in our e-edition as opposed to the printed copy.
But in order to do all those things, you need a computer, which provides the crucial bridge from your home to the World Wide Web.
And sadly, a new federal study reveals that more than a third of West Virginians don’t have that capability. That’s because slightly more than 35 percent of West Virginia households don’t own a computer.
As West Virginia pushes to expand high-speed Internet in the state, it’s becoming clear that those efforts might be more complicated than simply making broadband service available by stringing copper wire or fiber on poles to people’s homes.
As reported by The Associated Press, the study — called “Exploring the Digital Nation” — shows that 59 percent of West Virginia households subscribe to high-speed Internet. That’s the eighth-lowest Internet adoption rate among the 50 states.
West Virginia’s rank on the survey came in next to last, higher only than Mississippi, where 35.5 percent of homes don’t have computers. Compare that to the national average — 70 percent of homes are hooked up to the Internet — or the highest ranking state of them all — Washington, where a staggering 85 percent of homes have computers.
“The report is clearly, in my opinion, a report on age groups and their habits as much as it is on the subject of adoption rates,” said Lee Fisher, who serves on the West Virginia Broadband Deployment Council. “So in those states where an aging population, like in West Virginia, is an issue, I don’t believe you will ever have the adoption rates that people seem to shoot for until the demographic changes.”
There’s no denying West Virginia has an older population. But that doesn’t mean the state is doomed to have a low rate of computer ownership, especially since work is being done to make the state’s numbers come up.
Among the efforts:
• Some say the state should work with nonprofit groups, such as Mission West Virginia, that provide refurbished computers to homes that don’t have them.
• Frontier Communications, West Virginia’s largest broadband provider, has spent tens of millions of dollars in recent years to make high-speed Internet available across the state.
• West Virginia received a $126.3 million grant to extend high-speed fiber to public facilities, though homes and business haven’t been included in the project.
As Lawrence Strickling, U.S. assistant secretary of communications, said, “The data show that Americans depend on the Internet use to engage in a wide range of activities. It underscores the need for us to continue our efforts to ensure all Americans have access to broadband.”
Considering the digital age we live in, it’s likely the percentage of homes in West Virginia that own a computer will climb as more and more people rely on the convenience it provides.
But until then, it’s good to know there are plans in place to help more people get there.
Americans depend on the Internet to engage in a wide range of activities.
Laws to keep mudslinging to minimum can stife free speech
By nature, and by profession, we do not like lies. As journalists, we’re truth tellers. Or at least we attempt to get at the truth through research, attribution, documents and comments from people on either side of an issue.
Sometimes it ends up with “telling lies from both sides,” as a crusty reporter once mused a handful of years ago.
COLUMN: Freedom of Information — if you can pay
Several years ago, I made a Freedom of Information request to a local government agency. Within the five business days, as required by law, a packet of information was delivered to the office. I expected a bill, as most government offices have a charge that ranges from 25 cents to $1.25 per page for copies of the documents we request.
The reassuring spirit of Easter: One of new hope and beginnings
During the sub-zero and snow-filled months of winter, we maintained a spirit of hope that spring was on the way. It has now become a reality as all nature stretches and yawns and awakens once more to a new beginning. The fragrance of spring awakens our waiting nostrils, the budding beauty of new life brightens our eyes, and the reassuring idea of renewal stimulates our minds.
Unsung heroes handling calls in emergencies are appreciated
Thankfully, we live in a community where help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just by dialing three numbers — 9-1-1.
During this week, which is recognized as National Public Safety Tele-Communicator’s Week nationwide, we need to remember that on the other end of that line are the men and women here in this county who are always there in case of accident, crimes, medical emergencies and any other catastrophic event.
Message to ‘buckle up and park the phone’ is saving lives
A figure that we haven’t seen that much in recent years is the highway death toll for a given period.
Is the death toll up, down or just about the same as it was?
The West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program has announced there were 325 highway fatalities in 2013, the second-lowest number on record.
State native Burwell can ‘deliver results’ as Health and Human Services secretary
Sylvia Mathews Burwell might not be a name with which most people are immediately familiar.
For the past year, she has run the budget office under President Barack Obama.
Prior to that, she served as president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program and later the Wal-Mart Foundation.
Marion scores well in recent health report but could do better
When it comes to area-wide studies, especially on health, there’s usually good news and bad news.
So was the recent report on the health of America’s counties released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently. The nationwide county study evaluated health outcomes and health factors, and ranked counties accordingly.
COLUMN: ‘Instant’ news not always reliable
That little word has a pretty big meaning. With origins that date back to the 15th century, it means urgent, current, immediate.
But think about how that word has developed over the past few decades.
Instant pudding. Instead of slaving over a hot stove for a few minutes, you can now pour cold milk and with a bit of stirring, instant pudding!
Decision to be an organ donor can save lives
Chelsea Clair watched as her father died waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
So when she met Kyle Froelich at a car show in 2009 and heard about his struggles to find a kidney that would match his unique needs, she never hesitated to offer hers to the man she just met.
Volunteers continue to have priceless impact on community
Chances are, you know someone who volunteers. Perhaps you’re a volunteer yourself.
Marion County is full of volunteers.
They read to our youth.
They assist nonprofit agencies.
They serve on boards and committees.
And in 2013, they spent a day picking up nearly 10 tons of garbage that had been tossed out on public property around Marion County.
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