By ERIC EYRE
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginians give low marks to their internet service, according to a statewide survey.
Nearly 75 percent of those who took the online survey said they’re dissatisfied with the cost of their internet. Sixty percent complained about reliability — those times when the internet isn’t working. And 58 percent weren’t satisfied with their internet speed, according to a survey of 1,300 state residents by Get Connected West Virginia, a group that supports broadband expansion.
“Based upon the responses of our state’s internet users, it is clear that existing policies designed to expand and improve high-speed broadband internet access are not working for West Virginia consumers,” said Gaylene Miller, state director of AARP West Virginia.
Residents of all of West Virginia’s 55 counties took part in the online survey. Nearly all said having access to high-speed internet was important to them, and the state should make broadband expansion a priority. An overwhelming number of survey takers also said they support laws that require internet providers to deliver speeds as advertised.
Two bills that aim to improve broadband service in West Virginia are winding their way through both houses of the Legislature.
The Senate is considering a bill (HB 3093) that would authorize a pilot project in which three cities or counties could join together to build a broadband network and offer internet service to customers. The bill also would permit 20 or more families or businesses to form nonprofit co-ops that would provide internet service in rural areas.
Meanwhile, the House of Delegates is reviewing a second bill (HB 614) that would authorize the state to back loans to smaller internet providers that want to bring broadband service to rural areas. The firms would be eligible for loan guarantees of up to $10 million. The West Virginia Economic Development Authority would administer the program.
The loan guarantees would only be available for projects designed to bring high-speed internet to areas with no existing broadband service.
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