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EDITORIAL: High-speed internet vital to state’s future

The Inter-Mountain editorial

If you have traveled for business or pleasure during the past couple of years, you probably had to make lodging reservations in advance. Before doing so, you looked into the hotel, rental unit or other accommodation you were considering.

Clean? Check.

Breakfast? Check.

Near attractions or where you are bound on business? Check.

High-speed internet access? Maybe, maybe not if you were traveling somewhere in West Virginia.

Likewise, if you were planning on opening or expanding a business in the Mountain State, access to broadband service was a consideration.

More than 550,000 West Virginians lack access to high-speed internet service, according to a Federal Communications Commission report. The vast majority of them, more than 460,000, live in rural areas.

Expanding access to broadband service in West Virginia has been a priority among communications companies as well as state and federal governments during the past few years. Much has been accomplished, but clearly, a lot remains to be done.

Priorities need to be set. No one — neither the private sector nor government — has the resources to extend high-speed service to everywhere in our state, at least not during the foreseeable future. How can we use our resources to do the most good for the most people?

Another recent study, this one asking chambers of commerce and economic development agencies about broadband, hints at the answer. Nearly 45 percent of respondents to the study survey indicated that 91-100 percent of businesses in their counties “would see substantive improvement in their daily operations through doubled broadband speeds.”

Businesses provide jobs. West Virginia needs more of them. Clearly, then, providing high-speed internet service to businesses — perhaps targeting the tourism industry — needs to be the top priority. If that is not already the case, it needs to be.

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