CHARLESTON, W.Va. -Gov. Joe Manchin signed a new bill on April 10 designed to move West Virginia closer to meeting its goal of statewide high-speed Internet access by 2010.
A map illustrating broadband service availability in the state was also released.
HB 4637 establishes a definition of broadband, provides for mapping broadband services and establishes reporting requirements for state infrastructure. The legislation creates a broadband development council responsible for mapping and deployment of broadband services where state money is involved.
"This legislation marks significant progress toward developing the infrastructure to support broadband access in West Virginia," Gov. Manchin said. "We are now in a position to take a leadership role among states in making broadband available to our citizens and businesses. Broadband technology is increasingly essential to enabling West Virginians to better compete in today's global and technologically-savvy economy."
The bill contains explicit definitions and metrics that distinguish it from similar efforts in other states.
"With this legislation, West Virginia defines broadband and sets the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) standard of 200 kilobits per second (kbps) as a minimum," said Secretary of Commerce Kelley Goes. "The bill requires any new service to be 600 kbps "” three times the FCC minimum "” when state money is involved. As far as we are aware, our 600 kbps requirement is the most progressive in the nation."
"Broadband is the key to expanding access to health care and education, and strengthening our state's economy," said Senator Jay Rockefeller. This legislation "” together with broadband mapping "” is a crucial step toward connecting West Virginians with the enormous possibilities a strong broadband network can bring. And rest assured that Governor Manchin and I are firmly committed at the state and federal levels to extending broadband connectivity statewide."
"Verizon is deeply committed and supportive of efforts to deploy broadband in West Virginia, particularly in our rural communities," said B. Keith Fulton, president of Verizon West Virginia. "Ensuring that broadband Internet access is widely available is critical for education, health care, public safety, and business competitiveness and community development. Our collaboration with Connected Nation is the right solution at this crucial time, but it's only a beginning. The governor's goal is ambitious, and Verizon is stepping up to the challenge. We encourage other technology companies to do the same."
Broadband allows more data to be transmitted faster than dial-up services. The technology enables commerce, education, entertainment and medicine to enhance productivity and efficiency. Many high-quality Internet services and products are technically feasible only with high-speed Internet access.
Before the applications can be developed, the infrastructure must be there.
The bill's mapping component illustrates the extent of broadband service availability in West Virginia. The broadband inventory map will allow the state to identify unserved areas (no access to broadband) and underserved areas (below 600 kbps) and develop solutions.
Connect West Virginia, a non-profit subsidiary of Connected Nation, has collaborated with more than 25 broadband providers and communications workers in the state and produce the map. Various map views illustrate public assets and planned development that could support broadband expansion in the future.
Connected Nation recently released a report measuring economic impact of improving broadband use. The report and interactive maps can be viewed online at www.connectwestvirginia.org.
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