WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito said during a Senate hearing Wednesday on the expansion of broadband that unserved areas need to be a priority over underserved areas.

“I’ve been pushing, at least in my state, to make sure that we go to unserved because it doesn’t really do as much good, I don’t think, to up somebody’s speed even before somebody has availability of the service,” Capito said.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation conducted a hearing on ways to reduce the barriers of broadband deployment. The hearing came on the same day Capito introduced a bill creating the Gigabit Opportunity Act or GO Act that focuses on acceleration of the development of broadband in low-income and rural communities.

“In the GO Act the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) would be directed to release a framework to streamline broadband laws that states, counties and cities could use,” Capito told members of the committee.

Capito also questioned Larry Downes, the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy’s project director, about the broadband issue. Focusing her questions on money that was allocated in the 2009 Stimulus Package to expand broadband in areas like West Virginia but fell short. Downes said a new infrastructure package being touted by the Trump administration should be handled differently.

“We have to watch these projects more closely and more professionally frankly, and make sure when we make a loan or make an investment to a private party to do an infrastructure bill we just don’t leave it alone,” Downes said. “A lot of these projects (2009 stimulus) got into trouble. Some of the contractors were not very experienced and they were just allowed to spend money and deliver nothing.”

Downes also agreed with Capito on prioritizing unserved areas.

“That should be the exclusive focus. We should use this reverse auction process once we figured out what the real investment requirement would be to get over the high cost to find the least cost provider to maximize the public spend,” Downes said.

During her comments to the committee, Capito congratulated the West Virginia Legislature for passing and Gov. Jim Justice for signing a broadband bill. It calls for the establishment of co-ops to expand broadband.

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