Capito Hosts FCC Commissioner for Broadband Roundtable, Event Highlights Need to Improve Internet Access to Grow State’s Economy, Increase Tourism

LANSING — On Tuesday, Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., hosted Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai at Adventures on the Gorge in Lansing to draw attention to West Virginia’s broadband challenges.

Sen. Capito and Commissioner Pai were joined by several local business owners and officials from Fayette County for a roundtable discussion about the importance of expanding broadband access to rural parts of the state. Several businesses in the area have struggled to attract new visitors and grow because they lack high-speed internet access. Before the roundtable, the group toured the New River Gorge Bridge Walk.

Participants at the roundtable discussed the need for competition to deliver affordable service in both rural and urban markets, how to best streamline regulations for wireless providers, the importance of public-private partnerships to improve technology and how to ensure that there is accountability for how taxpayer dollars that go toward broadband are used.

“Whether it is a Realtor who is working with potential homebuyers that are interested in moving to West Virginia but don’t because of the lack of broadband, a tourism industry that is losing repeat customers because they can’t get online, or the barriers facing businesses who want to attract young IT professionals — it is clear that without broadband connectivity, Fayette County cannot reach its potential economically,” Sen. Capito said. “West Virginia is being asked to diversify, and without broadband, the transition will be tough. I was pleased to have FCC Commissioner Pai on hand to hear directly from West Virginians, and together we will take their concerns back to Washington.”

Commissioner Pai agreed that the residents and businesses in the Mountain State have struggled with the broadband issue.

“West Virginia faces some challenges, but it also has major assets: hard-working residents, a spirit of community and beautiful country,” Commissioner Pai said. “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.”

Software Architect Chris Whisenhunt also participated in the broadband discussion. He said the roundtable was a step in the right direction when it comes to improving the state’s broadband infrastructure.

“With the help of Sen. Capito and Commissioner Pai, I think that West Virginia will be able to start attracting younger, remote workers and give way too many more jobs,” Whisenhunt said.

The roundtable builds on Sen. Capito’s Capito Connect Plan for bringing affordable, high-speed internet to homes, businesses and classrooms throughout the Mountain State.

Capito also launched the Senate Broadband Caucus earlier this month.

According to the 2016 Broadband Progress Report, West Virginia is ranked 48th in the nation for broadband accessibility. Thirty percent of West Virginia residents do not have access to broadband service that meets Federal Communications Commission (FCC) benchmarks, and in rural areas of the state this number is as high as 48 percent.

Source: The Exponent Telegram