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WV broadband council chairman blasts FCC report, says data isn’t correct, doesn’t document WV struggles

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Numbers in a federal report about West Virginians who have access to broadband internet services are “not even close to being correct,” the chairman of the state’s broadband council said Thursday.

The Federal Communications Commission released the report last week. It claims, among other things, that seven West Virginia counties have 100-percent access to a fixed broadband connection.

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The report could hurt West Virginia’s chances to get money to help improve internet speeds, said Rob Hinton, chairman of the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council, which oversees broadband expansion and access in the state.

The FCC’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report says 82.2 percent of West Virginians have access to fixed, or non-mobile, broadband internet speeds.

The counties the report says has 100 percent fixed broadband access are Barbour, Gilmer, Harrison, Lewis, Marion, Randolph and Upshur. Other counties weren’t too far off from that, according to the report, with Braxton County at 99.9 percent and Monongalia County at 98 percent broadband access.

The FCC’s report relies on Form 477 data, which are filed by broadband providers, from December of 2016. Form 477 submissions show census blocks where providers offer a certain level of connection speed to at least one location. So a provider may not offer that service throughout the entire census block, the FCC’s website says.

In an email, an FCC spokesman said this criteria could “somewhat overstate deployment,” adding that census blocks are typically larger in rural areas.

Hinton said Form 477 data isn’t expected to be a flawless measure of broadband access, but added that he thinks the data in the 2018 report is exaggerated.

“To me, this goes beyond having inaccuracies,” Hinton said. “It’s just disappointing. That’s all it is. At what point next year are they going to say West Virginia has 100 percent coverage?”

Hinton said data the council has received from participants in its West Virginia Internet Speed Test shows roughly half of those tested have connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second download speeds. The FCC classifies a broadband connection as 25 megabits per second download speeds and 3 megabits per second upload speeds,

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Read more articles in The Charleston Gazette-Mail.


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