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Broadband

2023 Update

   One of the major committees that I was pleased to be appointed to for the 2023 Regular Session was the Technology and Infrastructure Committee.

   Trying to make substantive change in WV broadband is a slow process. I continue to work issues such as making it easier to get new easements across properties in some of the more restrictive Farmland Protection programs.  I certainly appreciate the need to protect our farmlands from large, intrusive utility easements, but when it comes to installing fiber optic lines, when buried the actual line can be installed in such a way as to not even be discernable a week after the cable is buried.

   One of the events that I attended during the summer of 2023 was the WV Broadband Summit (I invited myself); surprisingly, I was only one of two Delegates to attend. I learned a lot at the Broadband Summit, including how WV is planning to use the $1.2B in Federal BEAD (Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment) funding that we received.

2023 WW Broadband Summit

Oct 28, 2023 – The West Virginia Department of Economic Development, Office of Broadband has posted the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Initial Proposal Volume 2 for public comment. This is how $1.2 billion in (relatively) new Federal monies will be spent will be spent. I encourage all of you to consider making your comment. Comments will be accepted through November 20, 2023.

Here are the two important links:

I personally submitted this comment myself as your District 88 Delegate:  I think it is imperative that the Deployment Subgrantee Select Rubric (Appendix A.1) needs to more than evaluate planned speed of deployment, it needs to score with a relatively high weighting importance the actual past performance of the offeror as measured by installations completed in the geographical area to be served.

   We are creating a new class system in the US–those who have true high-speed internet and those who do not. You don’t have to think back very long to remember when most schooling in the US was via remote learning. Remote learning works well if you are on a fiber line, but that is not what most of rural America has, and certainly not most of District 88. What happens if you have more than one child trying to do remote Zoom learning and the best internet speed you can get–if at all–is only 1Mbps?

   What this country needs is a concerted effort to deliver high speed internet to everyone–much like what happened nearly 100 years ago with the Rural Electrification Act program. Prior to the REA in 1935, less than eleven percent of our farms were receiving central station electricity.  On May 11, 1935, by Executive Order, President Roosevelt established the Rural Electrification Administration as an emergency agency ”to initiate, formulate, administer, and supervise a program of approved projects with respect to the generation, transmission, and distribution of electric energy in rural areas.” By 1959, Senator Sam Rayburn reported that 90 percent of farm homes in the U.S. were electrified.

   For over a decade, our federal government has been mostly talking about a rural broadband telecommunications network and rural internet.  Earlier this year the FCC announced that it had awarded $9.2B for rural broadband in all 50 states.  Care to guess who won over $36M for Hampshire and Mineral Counties???  The answer is Frontier.

   We have good people in WV who are working to deliver broadband internet. For example, the Hampshire County Broadband Initiative Council, a model of “how to get things done,” is extending broadband coverage throughout the county, but we need more.

   President Biden likes to sign Executive Orders… how about signing one that should be non-controversial?  He should sign one to actually deliver true broadband internet, meeting the FCC 25 Mbps download speed metric, to rural America…. not just to “make it available.”  Spend some of that Infrastructure money on true infrastructure.

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