So even if most of have broadband coverage there are pockets like this all over. This is the perfect opportunity for wireless providers. Even if there are wireless providers in these areas it would seem to me they are not getting the publicity they need. I think we need to
look at why that might be.

Dawn DiPietro

Broadband Net access key part of state's growth

Rural West Virginians want high-speed or broadband Internet access, but they can't get it. That deprives them of taking full advantage of what the Internet offers in entertainment, business and educational use.

Alliance West Virginia polled residents of four rural counties this past spring. About two-thirds of people who responded say they rely on dial-up service for Internet access. More than half say they would pay more for high-speed service, but it's not available.

About 75 percent of the state's households have access to broadband, but they are in urban and suburban areas. That leaves about one-fourth of the state's 1.8 million people without access. That's about 450,000 potential broadband customers. Some are in isolated areas, but some are just a few miles from, say, downtown Huntington.

One of the more popular sources for broadband service is from cable TV, but cable is not available in all areas.

A large portion of this problem can be laid at the feet of regulators and local governments years ago. They did not require all parts of every county to be offered cable service. Cable providers were allowed to provide service only to the most densely populated areas, shutting out people in rural areas.

As water lines have spread out along secondary roads, so have people. But cable TV didn't follow. That's why many if not most houses in rural areas have satellite dishes on their roofs.

High-speed access is available over telephone lines, but not in all areas, so many rural residents are shut out of this option, too.

Potential answers to the lack of high-speed service were discussed Monday at a forum in Beckley organized by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

"This is not a luxury. It's basic to economic development. It's basic to long-distance learning. It's basic to interactive health care," Rockefeller said last week.

Rockefeller is right about that. In this modern age, answers have to be found. All areas of West Virginia need affordable high-speed Internet access.


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