Editorial - State must invest in broadband
Published: Friday, August 24, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 24, 2012 06:08
According to a newly released Federal Communications Commission report, West Virginia has a lower percentage of residents with access to a broadband Internet connection than any other state in the country.
The FCC report found that 46 percent of West Virginia’s population, which amounts to around 840,000 people, does not have high-speed internet access. Across the country, only six percent of Americans do not have high-speed Internet access. This shocking disparity caught state officials by surprise and it highlights the need for West Virginia’s legislators to take action on this critical issue.
Widespread high-speed Internet access is an essential component of any state’s efforts to develop a successful 21st century economy. The benefits of expanding broadband Internet access are numerous and they are essential for this state’s progress.
First and foremost, the Internet is an invaluable tool for disseminating information. This information can serve a variety of important functions, ranging from keeping the citizenry informed on key political issues to providing online educational opportunities that otherwise would be unavailable in a particular area.
The fact that the FCC report found West Virginia’s rural areas to be suffering from the most severe high-speed Internet shortages is an important one to consider. Our state’s rural areas suffer from a plethora of social ills, many of which can be mitigated by the free flow of information the Internet provides. This flow of information has empowered individuals, especially those on the fringes of society, in a truly unprecedented manner.
For this reason, the United Nations has designated Internet access as a basic human right. It is thus unquestionable providing this powerful tool to West Virginia’s languishing rural communities will help them reverse their fortunes It is almost unfathomable – and inexcusable – that almost half of our state’s population lacks access to high-speed internet.
Our state government must take action to ensure we do not continue to lag behind the rest of the country in this vital area.