Consumers left stranded along digital highway

An editorial from The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — When trying to move West Virginia forward in the digital age, most would agree broadband Internet is essential.

And to an extent, the state’s Broadband Deployment Council has assisted efforts to reach that goal, doling out grants to assist private companies and state agencies working to improve infrastructure.

Thanks in part to those efforts, the percentage of state residents who now have acceptable broadband speeds has increased from 48 percent in 2012 to 63 percent now.

But the council also has been ripe for turmoil, with various members hurling accusations of poor management of grants to the benefit of some companies but not others.

The most recent example of the bickering and squabbling came in the council’s last meeting when members voted 3-2 to approve using what funds were remaining in the group’s account for a project in Pocahontas and Randolph counties, according to the Charleston Gazette.

The new project would be in an area that already has an existing network, the Gazette reported.

That obviously causes pause, but this isn’t the only reason the action troubles us. Here are some other concerns, as reported by the Gazette:

n The council voted 3-2 to allocate what members believed was the total remaining funds — $690,000. Come to find out a few days later, the group only has $329,000 — not enough to make much of an impact on the project.

n The process to move to a vote on the issue circumvented normal standards. According to the Gazette, members received no finance plan or maps outlining the project.

n Only five members of a 15-member board bothered to vote — and only three voted to approve the project.

One of the reasons given to rush the project through the council was that the group is set to be disbanded Dec. 31. It was said that any money not used would go back to the state, and the group shouldn’t allow that to happen.

Why not?

The reasoning and intentions of forming the Broadband Deployment Council were sound and good. But somewhere along the digital highway, the signal to provide the best service to consumers has been lost…

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