From railways to roadways to airways, the United States has historically undergone expansive transformations of its transportation network. These transformations have both opened and united the country, fundamentally changing the way people live, work, and play. Today’s generation is faced with a transformation that’s arguably even more significant— the rapid development of broadband connectivity and the economic benefits it ultimately brings. But what if you can’t get it?
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) wants to build a comprehensive broadband network throughout West Virginia, which would inevitably bring significant new economic and educational opportunities to the state. “This isn’t a luxury,” said Rockefeller, “it’s a necessity.” According to the Public Service Commission, an average of only 75 percent of West Virginia households and businesses have access to broadband, with significantly lower penetration rates in the southern portion of the state.
At the recent Southern West Virginia Broadband Summit, hosted by Discover the Real West Virginia Foundation, Inc., 150 leaders from business, technology, and state and local government came together to share their perspectives on broadband deployment. Key speakers included Sen. Rockefeller; Michael J. Copps, Federal Communications Commission commissioner; Congressman Nick Joe Rahall; and Larry Irving, president of Washington Irving’s Information Group.
Representing the satellite market on a panel consisting of representatives from DSL, cable, fiber, and utility companies, Mike Cook, senior vice president, North America, for Hughes, noted that “while urban Americans have ample choices for broadband, there is still an entire class of small businesses and consumers residing in rural and suburban areas who will never be served by terrestrial technologies. Today, two-way satellite broadband is available everywhere in the United States with a clear view of the southern sky, using a compact dish antenna to deliver a fast, reliable, and alwayson connection.”
In fact, there are more than 300,000 consumers and small businesses using HughesNet satellite broadband Internet service throughout the U.S., and growing at the rate of over 10,000 new customers per month. In West Virginia, approximately 6,000 subscribers are using the service for a variety of small, home-based businesses, as well as for larger construction, mining, agricultural, and tourism operations.
While terrestrial providers may want to deliver broadband everywhere, their business models often prevent them from justifying networks in low-density areas. Fiber, though seemingly the Holy Grail, is not a “one size fits all” answer.
According to Rockefeller, “There is no one solution for broadband. We need a combination of companies building out their networks, and municipalities with the vision to offer networks.” Communities are also encouraged to band together and approach providers to expedite deployment.
Government plays a key role and can offer tax credits and other incentives to make it easier for consumers and businesses to get broadband. In 2005, Rockefeller partnered with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) to introduce legislation promoting broadband in rural and underserved areas. For more information about the Broadband Internet Access Act (BIAA), visit www.telcoa.org/id261.htm.
Rockefeller is committed to furthering prosperity in southern West Virginia and encourages public and private partnerships to facilitate broadband deployment. “The difference between the development of highways and broadband infrastructure is that the federal government is not going to build a national broadband network. They absolutely should, but they won’t,” said Rockefeller.
But one thing is certain—nationwide broadband access exists today via satellite. HughesNet services are available everywhere—from rural West Virginia throughout all of North America.