$72M plan to extend broadband wasn’t smart

An editorial from The Journal 

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Many of us have known people who spent far beyond their means on cars, vacations, etc., to keep up with the Joneses. State government simply cannot afford to do that in West Virginia.

Better high-speed Internet service would be an asset to our economy, proponents of an expensive plan to provide it suggested early in this year’s session of the Legislature. To that end, they proposed a $72 million state project to extend broadband service to rural areas.

Clearly, our state is behind our neighbors – and just about everyone else – in broadband coverage. The Federal Communications Commission recently ranked us 48th in the nation in that regard.

But the plan legislators were considering had critics, including some large Internet service providers. They argued it would spend money to duplicate some existing broadband networks.

With memories of technology fiascoes such as “routergate” still fresh, lawmakers were right to call a halt to talk of the $72 million project.

Instead, a proposal to allow the private sector to request grant and bond funding for smaller broadband extensions is being discussed. Even that idea needs to be handled carefully.

State government cannot even patch all the potholes in West Virginia roads. Spending $72 million on an ill-thought-out plan to catch up to other states’ Internet service was not a good idea.

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