BECKLEY, W.Va. — One of the newly elected members of southern West Virginia’s delegation to the House of Delegates is optimistic broadband services for rural communities will be a top priority in the upcoming legislative session.
Delegate-elect Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, said based on recent interactions with legislative leaders and other members of the House of Delegates, he believes there is strong bipartisan agreement about bringing high-speed internet to the most remote areas of the state.
“It appears as though there’s going to be a big push to get this last mile of broadband done. There’s been an incredible amount of work done with the utility companies, so that we have the infrastructure set up for the main hubs and terminals, and so forth,” he said.
Steele said most of the remaining obstacles appear to be technical rather than political, and that the goal of universal broadband in West Virginia will be achieved, even through incremental steps.
“It’s a little bit tedious, but it’s not something I foresee Democrats and Republicans bumping heads on,” he said. “I think it’s something that everybody realizes that we need and we want is reliable broadband that can reach to the rural areas.”
Zayo Group unveiled plans in October for a 200-mile service line that will run between Columbus, Ohio, and Ashburn, Virginia. The project is scheduled to begin in early 2019 and will take between two and three years to complete.
According to the most recent federal government data, approximately 25 percent of West Virginia residents do not have access to broadband services.