Broadband investments a key to our future | News, Sport, Work

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Expansion of broadband service has become a big news item lately.

In Thursday’s edition, we reported an announcement from Senator Joe Manchin’s office that a little over $ 18,000 was awarded from the Federal Emergency Connectivity Fund to help provide wireless and broadband Internet services and purchase computers and other equipment. .

The award was part of approximately $ 561,000 announced for the state, with the Mineral County School District and Cabell County Schools also receiving funding.

In recent years, many of our local public school districts have invested in similar technology, providing computers or tablets to their students and establishing Wi-Fi hotspots in schools to use when they have had to switch to remote learning as part of pandemic precautions. .

These efforts are good news for our education systems as technology changes and lesson delivery changes with it. Improved Internet service makes it easier for teachers and students to access information, thereby improving what is available in the classroom. It also provides a way to connect with others, including guest speakers, experts in certain fields, or other classes.

In the wider community, officials from the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission visited county commissions throughout the Northern Panhandle, garnering support for an ongoing effort to install broadband. “spine” network in the region.

A couple of years ago, discussions were held between officials from Hancock and Brooke counties, who joined forces to lobby state officials for funding to help expand broadband. At some point in the past year, these efforts have grown to include Ohio counties, Marshall and Wetzel, with the current proposal to have the “spine” run from New Martinsville north to Chester.

On Thursday, BHJ Executive Director Mike Paprocki was at the Hancock County Commission meeting and spoke with Brooke County Commissioners last week, providing an update on the efforts and noting that American Rescue Plan funds could be used to cover any local costs.

For Hancock County, there are four optional branches that officials are discussing to provide additional service areas, and it was noted that officials in particular would like to ensure broadband service is provided in the North Weirton area, which is currently at the center of economic development efforts in the region.

It would be a smart move, of course, as it would further strengthen ongoing service efforts and hopefully make those areas more attractive to businesses and industries looking for a new home. When those businesses choose to build in our area, it means new jobs, new taxes and better services, possibly new residents. Such developments will then stimulate further development, creating a growth cascade.

On top of all this, increased broadband offers the opportunity to attract more Internet service providers to the area. We only have a couple of viable suppliers right now, so if there is an opportunity to attract others, that would stimulate some competition and perhaps even create an environment with better pricing options for local residents and businesses.

This is the kind of investment our communities, and indeed our entire state, have needed for years. Tourism is fantastic and has provided many benefits to parts of West Virginia, but we need to prepare for the future while also meeting the needs of our current society. Communication is critical in today’s world and that includes the internet and cellular access.

I can’t wait to see where it ends up in the next few months.

(Colliers resident Howell is editor-in-chief of the Weirton Daily Times and can be reached at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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