WASHINGTON — West Virginia is among the states with which the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will collaborate to identify broadband availability across the country. 

An agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the administration, among other duties, focuses on expanding broadband internet access and adoption, according to its website. 

To that end, the collaboration will provide the agency with data of current broadband access in the states, according to a release from the administration. That data, as well as similar national data, will be used to create a map displaying where broadband is available. 

According to David Redl, assistant secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA administrator, that information will help the agency and lawmakers to identify what is still needed. 

“In order to ensure that all Americans have access to broadband, we need a more precise picture of the current services and infrastructure that are available,” Redl said. “NTIA’s work on an updated map, in partnership with these initial states, will help policymakers around the country make better decisions as they devise broadband expansion plans.” 

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. — who serves as the co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus — praised the collaboration, calling it “another positive step” in closing the digital divide in rural areas. 

“Accurate availability maps are absolutely crucial for informed decision-making, and West Virginia will undoubtedly benefit from being a key player in this process to expand access,” Capito said. “I’m glad to see our efforts to deliver NTIA the resources to move forward with important projects like this one are paying off, and I will continue working through my Capito Connect program to make even more progress in better connecting our communities.” 

West Virginia’s other Senate representative, Democrat Joe Manchin, was similarly pleased with the partnership. He said ensuring the accuracy of the broadband availability map is especially important to the rural states included in the collaboration. 

“Our state, the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council and my office have been leading the effort to make sure that communities in West Virginia without broadband coverage are accurately reflected in broadband availability maps,” Manchin said. “As the only member of Congress to formally challenge a broadband coverage map, I have been working hard to ensure these maps depict the real-world experiences of West Virginians so that our state is in a better position to receive the critical funding it needs to deploy broadband. 

“I am proud of the work being done by the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council, and I look forward to seeing the results of this partnership,” he said. 

The collaboration includes California, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee and Utah, in addition to West Virginia. 

The states were chosen because they reflect geographic diversity, participate in the agency’s State Broadband Leaders Network, have active state broadband plans or programs and were willing to contribute data, according to the release. 

The administration expects to ask other states, territories and federally recognized tribes with broadband programs or related data-collection efforts to participate in the future.