|Here we go again.|
The feds say broadband is coming to rural areas of West Virginia, a state that most studies say is worst-served by the 21st Century technology.
The Connect America Fund is providing federal subsidies to communications companies to expand broadband access in rural counties, including many in West Virginia, said Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski.
The Connect America Fund is the most significant government effort to bring broadband to unserved communities.
The numbers are really stark - there are 570,000 people in West Virginia who live in areas without broadband access," Genachowski said, "West Virginia could really benefit."
The Connect America Fund has been reformed by the FCC from the Universal Service Fund, which connected rural America to the telephone network in the last century, to accelerate the broadband build-out to 18 million Americans in rural areas with no access to broadband services.
"The USF had gotten wasteful and inefficient by leaving big parts of the country and West Virginia behind," Genachowski said.
"By using the funding from the eliminated program, we can drive broadband deployment and access."
With nearly 60 percent of West Virginia's rural population without access to high-speed Internet, this means that close to one million West Virginians lack access to jobs, economic opportunity, education, health care and public safety benefits that high-speed Internet has been known to provide.
"On a per capita basis West Virginia faces more issues than other states because the low population density and the terrain make it expensive to lay out broadband," Genachowski said.
"But we got this done with telephone service and we can get it done with broadband," he continued.
"Broadband access is no longer something that is a luxury," he said. "In today's economy, a small community that does not have broadband is in trouble."
Businesses need to reach out to customers and can create lower costs for themselves with broadband, he said, while high-speed Internet can provide better education, health care and public safety access.
"(Broadband) is important because in the 21st century broadband is essential to economic activity and job creation, public safety and it has enormous potential to expand education and health care."
"Rural Americans understand they now need broadband for economic development and statistics show that; studies show Internet access correlates with economic growth," he said.
The first major wave of broadband expansion is expected to begin this fall.
Decisions as to where the advancements will be made are to be announced.
"We are very proud that Frontier Communications has already announced to take 100 percent of the funds they have available to roll out broadband to 200,000 people in rural sections of their coverage area, which includes West Virginia," Genachowski said.