By Charles Owens, Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — Area residents who want to participate in future public utility rate increase hearings will have to do so virtually.
That’s according to a surprise announcement Tuesday from the West Virginia Public Service Commission, which said it was suspending the process of holding in-person public comment hearings across the state in favor of a virtual online comment format through a Microsoft Teams online application that will allow citizens to comment virtually through either their internet service or their telephone.
In the past, the commission has held a number of official public comment proceedings in Bluefield and Princeton — allowing for area residents to speak out on various public utility rate increase cases without having to drive to the commission office in Charleston and pay costly tolls.
The move to the virtual online format could cause some issues for residents in southern West Virginia, particularly in areas where high-speed broadband is still lacking. The region also is home to many elderly residents, some of whom are not comfortable with participating in online virtual meetings.