CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the House Judiciary Committee are expected to take up a bill written to make high-speed Internet more accessible in West Virginia.
The bill (HB 3093) would allow for the forming of co-ops by reforming and expanding the duties of the state Broadband Enhancement Council. It would also promote practices meant to improve broadband access in the state.
State Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher threw his support behind the bill in a public hearing held Friday morning in the House Chamber.
“It’s absolutely fundamental to the future of West Virginia, particularly those smaller, rural, under-served areas to be about to have broadband and allow them to prosper and thrive going forward,” Thrasher said.
The bill would also ban the use of “up to” maximum speed marketing of broadband speeds and, instead, require advertisements of minimum speeds.
But Kathy Cosco, spokesperson with Frontier Communications, said the company is concerned about some of the limitations in the bill.
“If providers aren’t allowed to promote the service that is available, I think that will be detrimental to the state’s economic development,” Cosco said.
Thrasher said the bill would allow for more competition, but Cosco was against that. She said instead of introducing bills that address areas that don’t have internet service, lawmakers are addressing areas where broadband already exists.
“When you spend tax payer dollars on state resources to focus on areas that already have broadband, just so those consumers can have a third or fourth choice, you are denying and depriving service to those who have nothing,” she said.
Jim Martin, a representative with CityNet, is in favor of the bill and says they welcome competition.
“If you build a good network and have a good service this bill is not going to have an impact on you,” Martin said.
The removal of “up to” maximum speed marketing doesn’t concern Martin. He said it’s best to do away with false advertising.
“If you have a network and you’re comfortable with it, you should be able to advertise your minimum speeds and then stick with it,” he said.
The 2017 Regular Legislative Session ends April 8.