West Virginia ranks dead last in the country in terms of technology and near the bottom in broadband competition. Limited access to fiber optic broadband hampers business development and especially impacts rural regions of the state which are basically cut off from high speed internet access.
SB 459 would provide for the construction of a statewide fiber optic broadband infrastructure network, owned and operated by the state. This network would create the “middle mile” infrastructure for broadband development in West Virginia.
While we’ve spent a lot of time in our state talking about the need for broadband development and expansion has been undertaken by private companies, many areas in the state still lack substantial access to high-speed broadband.
SB 459’s sponsor, Senator Chris Walters (Putnam Co.) is advocating for the bill as a job creation and revenue generating mechanism. A study completed by West Virginia State University stated that this bill would create 4,000 construction jobs, increase the state GDP by $919 million, and cost the state $78 million for completion.
A number of groups identify this infrastructure development as critical to encouraging businesses – especially those that depend on technology and remote tele-work – to locate in West Virginia.
The bill was passed by the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is currently waiting to be taken up by the Senate Finance Committee. For the bill to pass, it must be passed out of the Finance Committee by Sunday.
If you are interested in this bill and would like to see it move forward, contact the Finance Committee Chairman, Senator Mike Hall at 304-357-7901 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the bill or to find out how it is progressing between now and Sunday, contact Generation WV, which is advocating for passage of the bill, at email@example.com.