CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill that would expand broadband in West Virginia cleared its first Senate committee Wednesday with an expected stiffer test coming.

The Senate Transportation Committee forwarded the bill that would put the state in charge of a middle mile network.

Retired Judge Dan O’Hanlon, who is currently the director of WVNET and vice chancellor of technology at the HEPC, said WVNET could manage the network, which he said would serve as an interstate of sorts for broadband.

“We would be managing basically the infrastructure and then encouraging companies to provide the last mile particularly in the small towns where we get so many complaints that they don’t have access. Not just access to broadband but affordable broadband,” O’Hanlon said.

The bill would create a 2,600-mile fiber network. The $78 million project would be paid for with bonds.

Frontier Communications lobbyist Kathy Cosco said her company has invested millions and continues to expand its service. She says state-run networks haven’t been greatly successful in other states.

“The construction of a state-owned middle-mile network will be duplicative of the existing network infrastructure, come at a significant risk to the taxpayers, so that if an eventual transition back to the private sector occur unnecessarily putting at risk the state’s bond rating,” she said.

CityNet President Jim Martin told the committee without an adequate middle-mile network broadband would not be able to be provided to rural areas. He said current middle-mile networks in the state go to more populated areas.

The state’s Chief Technology Officer Gale Given said she’s needs more facts before deciding if a state-operated middle-mile system would be a good idea.

“Perhaps this network is necessary but perhaps only half of this network is necessary,” she said.

The bill heads to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

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  • Curt

    This is what WV has needed since the early '90s. $78 mil sounds like a real bargain honestly. This is really the only way that the vast amount of rural West Virginians will have possible access to real broadband. No corporate entity is going to build that infrastructure. Oh.. and the HughesNet thing.. not truely a broadband alternative, there is a delay between when you send a data request and then recieve the response. (radio beam from your dish up to the satellite, back to HughesNet, out to the internet, back to HughesNet, up to the satellite, back down to the dish, not nearly as fast as being already connected to the internet directly. Try playing that new XBox game over HughesNet, doesn't work very well, due to the satellite lag.) works fine for things like web browsing/watching videos/listening to music. but you can't do "persistant" connections.

  • Rusty Irvin

    StratusWave Communications, a competitive broadband provider in WV, supports this open access middle mile project. In our opinion, this project will more than pay for itself. It is good for our State, and it will promote real competition that is good for consumers.

    H. "Rusty" Irvin III

  • Smarter than this guy

    You, sir, are an ignoramus.

  • Smarter than this guy

    You, sir, are a moron.

  • Mudder

    JEEZ, this state is so broke we can hardly afford to pay attention let alone sell bonds to pay for this hair brain idea. If rural people want internet there are a couple of companies than provide internet via satellite. I had Hughes for several years before moving to the big city.

  • Digital Dark

    Neither Verizon nor Frontier has been interested in anything outside towns. In urban areas their return on investment is greatest. Like any other company, their interest is profit, not getting infrastructure to the hills and hollows.

    If there is blame to be laid for creating a state of digital haves and have nots, put it at the foot of state government. Despite numerous studies and lots of dollars over the past 20 years, legislators have come up with nothing that would support Internet access for ALL citizens. The situation remains the same as it was in the 1990s: urban folks have access while rural folks are in two tin cans and a string land.

  • Gscsbb1

    Actually the FCC defines it at 4MB as the minimum. They have discussed making it 10MB but to my knowledge and discussions in WV it's 4.

  • Linda Keeney

    It's easy for folks who have DSL to be critical. But folks like my neighbors and me are that "middle mile." We have DSL coming from both directions but Frontier refuses to serve our small neighborhood. We are not even the most rural area but for whatever reason we do not have high speed access. Sometimes I think it's so Hughes Net (who has partnered with Frontier) can continue to gouge us. If a state system could get service to us, then I say let it happen.

  • jm

    While I do not dispute the need to get internet out to as much of the state as possible, I think that the state getting into it might not even be a good idea. However, the state of finances of the state should dictate not taking this up at this time. Everything continually is being cut, due to lack of financing available, but do you continue to cut services in order to lack of better terms............. do you spend millions to get the net to 10 people.

  • Jim K

    WV needs to do whatever is possible to get the state better speed and coverage.

    There are a lot of people living in rural areas that could get needed training or run their own net based businesses if they could have decent internet.

    I'd rank this issue as important to our future economy, more than some of the bills they are working on to lower wages and limit people to sue when they get injured.

  • Mac

    I have there 300/30 service and it is very nice.

  • Dave

    Something needs to happen in order to break the strangle hold Frontier has on our state.

    I have had so many credits and discounts to my account for service issues that I've basically had free internet for the past year and a half, what I'd rather have is more than the 3mps, or as Frontier likes to say 'up to 6', I can sometimes get and for a reasonable price. I'm in a municipality, not out in the dickie weeds.

    Yet Frontier keeps stating what wonderful things they're bringing to WV.

    Competition from anywhere that challenges them is our only way forward.

  • Alum

    I am not particularily fond of Frontier either but it must be recognized that they bought the legacy system left behind by C&P/Bell Atlantic/Verizon and the latter company obviously abandoned the state years before they sold off the system to Frontier.

    I would love to have fiber optic available but at least my current DSL service is better than the satellite service I had to install when I moved (back to the state) to Berkeley County nearly 8 years ago.

  • mountainsurfer

    Frontier should be sued for not providing the services they advertised. Crooks!

  • zero tolerance

    +1 (MB/sec)

    They do nothing to get the service to the customer that is being paid for.

    Frontier Communications is a JOKE! If there were any competitors they would be OUT OF BUSINESS!

  • Skippy

    They don't need to give a damn with the legislators they have in their pockets including majority leader Mitch Carmichael

  • Jake

    At this point, I'd rather pay taxes toward the development of infrastructure then pay $40/month to Frontier for "high speed" DSL which is slower than dial-up speeds. In our area, they say we should have 1.2 MB/sec and I've NEVER seen anything close to that. Sometimes at 2 AM it may be around .6 MB/sec but in the evenings it stays around .15-.30 MB/sec. My wife is working on her masters in nursing and has lost points on assignments because she couldn't get a response to a post or an assignment uploaded on time. It's ridiculous! Frontier has NO incentive to make any improvements because they have no competition in our area. And Frontier lobbyists have the audacity to say they think this bill is not a good idea and that they're concerned that the project will add to the taxpayers burden. When has Frontier ever been concerned about anyone but themselves?

  • WVU fan in Boston

    Why can't the state approach John Chambers the CEO of Cisco Systems (Charleston and WVU Grad) and 'Google FIBER' to provide the equipment and funding for the middle mile?

  • epeer

    You are lucky, Bill. Where I live in Berkeley County (less than 4 miles from Martinsburg), I only have satellite or yodeling. Frontier refuses to expand broadband to my community.

  • Improve our State?

    Blasphemy! Our Government would be better off creating a Bill naming Coal the state natural resource for life

  • ViennaGuy

    LOL @ Tom. A "do-nothing party trying to run everything" ... talk about a contradiction in terms.

  • Gary

    We don't need this . Any time you get the state or federal running something it is a joke. Just look at our country. They ought to be looking into the 30 million they gave Frontier to fix it . That was a waste of money. Frontier is the worst provider ever and they don't give a damn.

  • Broadbandess Bill

    The current definition of broadband service is one which provides 25MBPS download speed. Who in WV is getting that? We are lucky to get close to 3 here where I live. IF you want jobs to come to WV we MUST find a way to get infrastructure in our state out of the stone age. We need major improvements plus we need competition among the providers in this particular arena. Where we live it is Frontier, satellite, or yodeling, your choice.

  • Are we fools?

    Why would we let the state do ANYTHING on its own? Routergate?? Towergate?? Come on now.... Look at Citynet. They've invested millions in middle and last mile fiber around the state. Who else is trying a pilot program to bring Gigabit service to residential customers?? Why don't we give a company like Citynet grant money to complete the job, and keep the ignorant folks in Charleston out of it. Though it will be funny to see them buy thousands of miles of the wrong fiber optic cable, hide it in a warehouse, then have it be discovered later and the term "Fibergate" coined.

  • Stupid Hillbillies

    Guess them folks livin' up the holler should move into the 21st century. Besides, their shanties have wheels - move it!

    The "state" and "feds" need to get out of the entitlement business.

  • Harpers Ferry

    Who is Bill and why does he think the state should do as he pleases?

  • Harpers Ferry

    It's time for you to start using a comma.

  • Richard

    We can not afford the new spending our budget is broke. No more pork it is time we quit spending. Paying for something with a bond is just a loan. No more debt.

  • Sdc

    That statement is so foolish he is serving Snowshoe because frontier failed poorly. The number one guest complaint for years was Internet speeds. Thank god for city net and Jim Martin.

  • David

    Hell No!!!!!!!

    To taxpayer funded fiber.

  • Scooter

    Broadband means cable, Suddenlink has 300 meg and working toward a gig. Frontier has 25 meg tops lol

  • no Frontier

    As long as someone other than pathetic Frontier Communications handles it.... They should be allowed anything new until the get what they have running properly. #moneyfornothing

  • Skippy

    Frontier has the senate majority leader and senate majority whip, not to even mention a few delegates, on its payroll. Good luck getting this bill passed.

  • Tom m.

    There goes the do nothing party again trying to run everything that they can get their grubby fingers on.

  • fools for Martin

    Jim Martin only cares about citynet. He got money from the state after trying to make a motion to give it to himself and was stopped the Gazette reported. Where is the Ethics Commission. His is serving snowshoe but only so he can get to his own condo. this is all about him
    somday they will wise up to him. Why can we use that money for raises for deserving state employees or to fix sewer systems that don't exist. More for the rich so he can make more money at others expense. I have cable and have good service why do I need his.