West Virginia has some of the lowest rates of broadband access at some of the slowest speeds in the nation.
Sen. Chris Walters, R-Putnam, wants state government to build a sort of fiber-optic interstate highway and then lease it to private providers. The goal is to bring high internet speeds at cheaper costs.
On The Front Porch podcast, Walters gave ten reasons for building the network:
1. West Virginia has some of the slowest internet speeds in the U.S. and is slower than Romania and Bulgaria.
3. Slow connections are bad for business. Walters met a Pocahontas County farmer who wants to sell his livestock online, but doesn’t have broadband, so has to use an Alabama broker.
4. Businesses that move here, even to our cities, are shocked at their slow connections, Walters said, and therefore are unlikely to expand.
5. It’s also about education, he said. If you’re connection drops while you are taking an online test, you can fail the test.
6. What’s missing is the so-called “middle mile” between individual homes and the nationwide fiber networks.
7. Walter’s plan: build 2,500 “middle miles” of fiber connection costing $72 million. Two miles of interstate road construction costs $80 million.
8. How to pay for it: FCC grants for telemedicine, Department of Defense grants for wired line 911 emergency system, and bonds that would be repaid with proceeds from companies using the fiber network.
9. Opposition is coming mainly from existing providers that don’t want competition, Walters said.
10. The system would be operated by the state Water Development Authority. “All fiber is, is pipes – pipes with some cords in them.” The state WDA has bonding authority.
An edited version of “The Front Porch” airs Fridays at 4:50 p.m. on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s radio network, and the full version is available above.
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