Capito Highlights State’s Broadband Difficulties on Fayette County Tour

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito is one of several prominent West Virginians who wants to see improved broadband access in the Mountain State.

Yesterday, she toured parts of Fayette County with business owners, local leaders, and FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai to highlight the difficulties facing West Virginia’s economy while it remains near the bottom for residential access to broadband internet. The group also engaged in a round table discussion.

“56 percent of West Virginia is unserved by high speed internet,” Senator Capito said on Wednesday’s edition of the MetroNews-affiliated “The Mike Queen Show” on the AJR News Network. “We’re not going to get our economy turned around or our young people attracted to living in our state if we do not have the availability of high speed internet and the affordability.”

West Virginia is ranked 48th in the United States in terms of broadband access.

“We don’t have the customer mix–large numbers–where the providers are going to want to go,” she said. “We’re going to have to use incentives from the FCC and other places to push the providers to go to those underserved and unserved areas.”

Senator Capito spoke with business owners from Adventures on the Gorge, who suggested that the poor access to broadband internet reinforces an image that West Virginia doesn’t want while also harming long-term growth.

“When you come in, you want to be able to connect,” she said. “And she said, ‘if they can’t connect then it reinforces in their mind that West Virginia is kind of behind.'”

She also praised businesses–including some in Morgantown–who have made use of technology to provide a better customer service experience.

“You have to wait for tables?” she said. “What a great thing–to have an app on your phone so you get a text when your table is ready. You can go out and shop at the other little stores in and around the area. That’s good for the economy. There are all kinds of way that the internet can boost the economy and is a necessity.”

In a released statement, Commissioner Pai said, “West Virginia faces some challenges, but it also has major assets: hard-working residents, a spirit of community, and beautiful country. The internet is an increasingly critical way for the state to promote those assets, and I’m hopeful that the FCC, other agencies, and the private sector can work together to promote broadband deployment all across the Mountain State”

A state Senate bill to build a fiber optic infrastructure network that would increase broadband access passed by a 29-5 margin earlier this year. That bill died in February in the House of Delegates.

By:  Alex Wiederspiel
Source: WAJR