The Times West Virginian

Opinion

November 6, 2013

Access to broadband is critical for future

The members of nearly one out of every 10 West Virginian households wouldn’t be able to read this article on a computer.

Today, 91 percent of homes have access to broadband Internet services. But leaders in the industry say installing the infrastructure for the remaining 9 percent would not only be a costly endeavor but that the audience isn’t interested.

Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller hosted a summit with officials from Suddenlink Communications, Frontier Communications, Comcast and Verizon in Morgantown to discuss broadband access and availability. The companies say 100 percent coverage is a lofty goal, though they aggressively expand their networks using grant funding and are attempting to offer low-cost options for low-income families.

But geographic isolation and areas of the Mountain State’s sparsely populated terrain continue to be barriers. And beyond that, many of the poor and the elderly don’t find that the Internet is relevant to their lives, company officials say.

Its relevance, we believe, is more important now than ever, especially for those who live in isolated areas. It offers a sense of connection to the outside world and a whole worldwide web of opportunities to be educated, informed and productive.

Comcast vice president Mark Reilly said that part of the lack of infrastructure dates back to the 1990s when many in rural areas of the state did not want access to cable systems. Because that initial infrastructure wasn’t put in place, bringing broadband Internet access, which shares many of the same methods of delivery as cable, means going back and making connections that have never been there.

“We built a largely residential network where people were demanding it,” he said. Today, “it’s hard to get to that farm, and it can be hard to get to that industrial park.”

We do have a lot to celebrate, however. When a similar summit was held four years ago, the state’s access was 72 percent. Increasing by that large of a margin within four short years shows the determination of the current administration and the commitment of companies to reach those who are unconnected.

For example, Frontier set the goal of bringing broadband to 85 percent of its West Virginia market by the end of 2014, and after an investment of $360 million, the company had exceeded its goal already. The company brought broadband access to 85,000 new homes and with stimulus funds and grants will connect another 67,000 soon.

And though the cost is high, the companies certainly have the support of the federal government in this endeavor.

But, sadly, even that is threatened as cuts have affected all federal agencies across the board.

“I want to do everything possible so that all West Virginians are on the right side of the digital divide,” Rockefeller said. “Now is not the time to cut back on investments in critical infrastructure.”

And we know why it’s critical. Access to broadband Internet means a better shot at economic development, better education in the home and in the schools, and it has the ability to improve public safety, emergency services and health care.

Today, 91 percent is a great statistic. But we don’t think the idea of full coverage is too lofty. In fact, we think it’s critical to our future.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • State must convince parents, schools about benefits of Common Core

    It’s always nice to have a little bit of background information before diving into something new.
    So we have to agree with West Virginia Board of Education president Gayle Manchin when she says the state should have done a better job of explaining Common Core standards when they were first introduced.
    Those standards, part of a national educational initiative that sets learning goals designed to prepare students in kindergarten through 12th grade for college and career, will be fully implemented in every West Virginia school district next month.

    July 30, 2014

  • Time is now for Tomblin to support King Coal Highway

    U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is asking Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to add the King Coal Highway project to West Virginia’s six-year highway improvement plan. It is a logical request, and one that Tomblin should act promptly on.

    July 29, 2014

  • United effort to keep NASA in Fairmont is essential project

    The high-technology sector is obviously vital to the economy of North Central West Virginia.
    That’s why a strong, united effort to keep the NASA Independent Verification and Validation Program in Fairmont is absolutely essential.

    July 27, 2014

  • COLUMN: Calling all readers: Be heard

    I love to talk to readers.
    I love to hear concerns they have about stories we’ve written, things they think should be included in the newspaper and things they think shouldn’t be.

    July 27, 2014

  • Korean War veterans are deserving of a memorial

    NEEDED: A total of $10,000 for the Korean War Memorial this year.
    And a good man has been placed in charge of the funding. Charlie Reese, former president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, is now director of the Marion County Development Office. His task was to make a recommendation as to what steps are necessary to keep the project moving.

    July 25, 2014

  • Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives

    It takes up to 100 units of blood to save the life of someone who sustains life-threatening injuries in a vehicle accident.
    We’re hoping that the number of people who come to Fairmont Senior High School on Friday for and American Red Cross blood drive will exceed that amount.

    July 24, 2014

  • Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely

    The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
    It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
    It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.

    July 23, 2014

  • Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer

    July 22, 2014

  • Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life

    Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
    And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.

    July 20, 2014

  • COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?

    Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
    I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.

    July 20, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads