CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, says one of the bills Gov. Jim Justice signed this week will be crucial in helping the state further increase internet access.

“The consultants and professionals who work in the industry say wireless service may be the best solution that we have for helping West Virginia communities leapfrog over where we are to a point where we have reliable broadband service to as much of the state as possible,” he said.

Justice on Wednesday signed Senate Bill 3, which requires electricity companies to study existing infrastructure to see if it is feasible to add internet technology to the same network and allows companies to use existing rights-of-way for future broadband technology.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay

This is the third bill the Legislature has passed in three years regarding internet access. Hanshaw said on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline” this year’s measure focused on wireless technology.

“We know we have one of the highest costs per mile for deployment of actual fiber optic cable and broadband fiber in the country because of our lack of population density and our terrain and geography,” he explained.

Hanshaw added the legislation removes barriers regarding infrastructure, allowing companies to go out and install needed technology. He noted the Federal Communications Commission was not active in the past as the state would like regarding using existing poles and infrastructure for other uses.

“Now, the FCC has finally acted, and we have a federal rule in place that now makes it possible for the state to assert some jurisdiction there,” he said.

Hanshaw called internet services a “true utility,” adding the state needs to treat it as such.

“Information is the currency of the economy now,” he said. “We have to treat fiber optic cable and broadband technology now the same way we treated roads and navigable waterways two centuries ago.”