Broadband expansion and world-class internet connectivity are crucial elements to a growing and prosperous West Virginia. Accordingly, Gov. Jim Justice and the West Virginia Legislature are devoting significant resources and incredible focus toward realizing the goal of internet for all West Virginians.
To achieve this worthy objective, the West Virginia Department of Economic Development (WVDED) has created and is aggressively implementing the West Virginia Broadband Investment Plan. The plan includes programs and projects that will dramatically improve internet connectivity throughout our state. West Virginia’s plan has already received widespread national acclaim. In fact, West Virginia was among the first four states in the nation to receive approval for the Capital Projects Fund, a program directed by the U.S. Treasury. While federal funding for broadband has reached historic levels, it is not unlimited. The WVDED plan thoughtfully incorporates funding from federal, state, local, and private partners to direct funding to the areas that need it most.
The broadband expansion now occurring in West Virginia is expertly planned, well-funded and thoughtfully designed by the WVDED to specifically extend connectivity to our fellow West Virginians who currently lack access to internet services. By prioritizing the expansion of broadband service to unserved communities with little to no connectivity, these programs reflect an unrelenting commitment to all West Virginians. We believe that every citizen of our state should have access to high-speed, reliable and affordable internet services.
Broadband connectivity enables a multitude of important life functions that will serve to create jobs, provide modern health care, enhance educational opportunities and improve quality of life for generations to come. These vital services are critical activities in a 21st century economy. Providing new broadband connectivity to the unserved citizens of West Virginia will have the most direct impact on the well-being and economic prosperity of residents and businesses throughout our state.
The WVDED is laser-focused on bringing the benefits of broadband technology to every community in West Virginia. Among the most acclaimed features of this successful initiative is our program’s partnership with experienced, private-sector Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Utilizing the expertise and experience of private sector companies is the most efficient and effective mechanism for delivering world-class internet services. Innovative partnerships are proving that this approach works.
Occasionally, we hear huffing from those who want the government to own and run the internet. Fundamentally, we reject such an approach. While we acknowledge a few left-leaning states such as California and New York are pursuing this more socialistic path, Governor Justice and the West Virginia Legislature have worked hard to remove barriers to broadband investment, creating an environment that encourages private sector investment in West Virginia. We should all be fearful of a scenario in which the words are uttered, “I’m from the government and I’m here to run your internet.” Rather, we should encourage a structure in which numerous and various companies expand throughout West Virginia, and, thereby raise the standards for all.
The citizens of West Virginia can take justifiable pride in the expansion of broadband connectivity initiated by Governor Justice, the West Virginia Legislature and our congressional delegation. The West Virginia Broadband Investment Plan is the most effective and efficient means to reach the unserved citizens of our state. West Virginia is a recognized national leader for our efforts to improve broadband services. Working together, we will achieve the goal of ensuring that world-class internet services are available and affordable to every citizen of West Virginia.
Mitch B. Carmichael is cabinet secretary of the W.Va. Department of Economic Development.