MT. STORM, W.Va. — U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) spent the day touring the Potomac Highlands region with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler.
Their first stop was in Thomas Tuesday where they spoke with small business and community leaders.
During a visit to the Union Educational Complex in Mt. Storm, they spoke with school and community officials about not only the need to prove broadband at home for the students but also to local businesses to show students the economic opportunities in the region.
Manchin said his goal was to show Wheeler the needs in rural communities for better access to high speed internet. Manchin said the existing population of the region faces the same challenges as rural areas across the country.
Wheeler said he wanted to be on the front lines of areas that could benefit the most from increased broadband and high speed internet access. Manchin said people are already coming to the area for recreation and tourism the goal is to get them to stay in the area and open businesses. He said in order to achieve that goal, the area needs better connectivity to internet access.
Wheeler said, for him, the visit is a real eye opener to the issues facing rural communities. He said even with the programs in place there are improvements that need to be made. Wheeler says it all starts at the local and state level working in conjunction with federal programs.
Wheeler said once the connectivity issue is improved workers will flood to West Virginia because it is a great place to live and work.
Grant County Public Schools Board of Education President Scott Miley said it is vital to provide all students across the state the same opportunities and expanding broadband access to rural areas is a step toward that equality. He says they are working on providing mobile hot spots on buses to bring better access to areas across the county.
Grant County Public Schools Superintendent Doug Lambert said he understands the areas sparse population may not be a priority but the school system’s goal is to provide the best opportunities for their students in the classroom and at home.