October 22, 2019

The Future Belongs To The Connected

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and his counterpart, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, have done a great job keeping the Mountain State’s lack of broadband access in the forefront of the national discussion.

But they need all West Virginians to help spread the word.

That’s the message Manchin shared during his stops in Lewis County on Friday, urging West Virginians to measure their internet speeds and send them to his office.

“We’re urging everyone to do these speed tests,” Manchin said. “We need to know, and people need to be involved in West Virginia, if they ever want to have broadband, high-speed internet and cell service. This is what we’re fighting for.”

Manchin said the goal is to “cover him up” with responses, referencing Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai.

Saying that it was Lewis County’s concerns with poor broadband service that first brought the state’s problems to his attention, Manchin said it is a statewide issue because of West Virginia’s rural status.

In the latest round of reports sent to Pai, results from Aurora and Bruceton Mills were included — showing the lower-than-acceptable speeds that can be found from one end of Preston County to the other.

And he and Capito are working diligently to make sure the state gets its fair share of $20 billion being made available nationwide to help address broadband shortfalls.

Manchin brought FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel with him on Friday, and she quickly joined the chorus of concern, emphasizing that “the future belongs to the connected.”

“No matter who you are or where you live, you need access to broadband to have a fair shot at 21st-century success,” she said. “It’s clear to me that we’ve got work to do in West Virginia. There are too many places in these hills that are not connected like they should be.”

Rosenworcel said she would bring the concerns to Washington, admitting that FCC maps, which show West Virginia’s broadband service to be better than many residents report, appear to be inaccurate and need to be corrected.

“It’s good to be here today to hear from real people and hear their stories about their challenges with homework and developing businesses and health care,” she said. “I want to take that back to Washington, and I want to make sure that we fix those maps and get this state the resources that it needs.”

Lewis County High School students and educators did a great job expressing their concerns, as did medical professionals at Mon Health System’s Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital.

“I think we should have good maps before we distribute the money — it’s pretty basic,” Rosenworcel said. “So I want to put pressure on the agency to make sure we map everything correctly, so we send those funds to the right place.”

It is imperative that West Virginians — not just our leaders, but all of us — join the effort to better educate leaders in Washington, D.C., on the state’s broadband issues.

We’ve seen lots of social media posts and have heard lots of discussion over the years, but now is the time to join Sens. Manchin and Capito to send a clear message that West Virginia needs more broadband money and it must be allocated correctly to improve the state’s future.

As Commission Rosenworcel aptly said: “The future belongs to the connected.”

It’s time West Virginia storms into the 21st century to be able to compete on a more level playing field in terms of economic and educational pursuits.

It’s time for all West Virginians to speak up.

By:  John Miller
Source: Preston County News & Journal