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WV Senate passes scaled-down broadband bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill that would construct a government-owned broadband “interstate” passed the State Senate Thursday on a 29-5 bipartisan vote.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Chris Walters, R-Putnam, would originally have constructed 2,500 miles of fiber-optic lines through every county seat in the state. The bill was amended in committee to have private industry apply to construct the network in zones. Funds are administered by the Water Development Authority and the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council would oversee grant disbursements.

Internet providers would submit a business plan, which would have to be approved before applying for the bonds approved by the WDA if the project is determined to be self-sustaining. Access rights may be granted for up to 20 percent of any zone, Walters said.

Walters said the Department of Education would be required to apply for grants to fill the “homework gap” so that students could complete assignments outside of school and the Department of Homeland Security would be similarly charged with applying for bonds to enhance emergency services.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said he opposed the bill because he believes private industry should be responsible for construction…

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