Associated Press Published

If you’re not wired yet, you may be soon

West Virginia Internet providers say they’re working hard to reach the nine percent of people who lack broadband access, but hurdles remain.

The internet providers spoke Monday at the third Discover the Real West Virginia Foundation Broadband Summit in Morgantown.

The Foundation was formed by Sen. Jay Rockefeller who noted when the last broadband summit was held four years ago, less than 72 percent of West Virginians had access to broadband. Today, 91 percent have access.

Frontier’s Kathleen Quinn Abernathy said Connect America Fund grants help extend service to rural areas, and more than 60,000 people will get service soon. She said it will take much longer to reach the remaining 20,000 households.

Suddenlink spokesman Michael Kelemen said it’s hard to reach everyone when coverage maps are incomplete. And he calls 100 percent a “lofty goal” when water and sewer service doesn’t even reach 90 percent of homes.

Mark Reilly of Comcast said tougher regulation won’t help either. He noted telephone service has yet to reach every U.S. resident.

Other speakers at the event included Jessica Rosenworcel, a commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission, and Mohammed Gawdat, a vice president at Google.

Rosenworcel talked about broadband as both a technology and a platform for opportunity, and its importance as essential infrastructure for the 21st century.

Gawdat’s remarks focused on innovative ideas for the future, including Google’s Project Loon, which has experimented with using high-altitude balloons to bring Internet access to remote communities.