Published by The Journal on June 5th, 2019
By Michael Neary
CHARLES TOWN — As student Tyler Henry thought about the importance of broadband access, he pointed out the particular difficulty for people in rural areas.
“Everything often gets focused on the cities,” Henry said, “because the cities have the most people.”
Henry is a current junior, or rising senior, at Washington High School, and he was touching on a population issue that pervaded a Skype conversation between around a dozen students at Washington High School and U.S. Sen Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
The conversation explored the importance of broadband access.
As Manchin began his reflections on broadband, in response to questions from the students, he likened broadband access today to the availability of electricity decades ago. He recalled the Rural Electrification Act under the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s.
“If you just fast-forward to today, it’s the same thing with connectivity,” he said. “If we’re not connected, we’re not going to be able to compete.”
Students’ questions ranged widely, but several touched in some way on how broadband access — or its absence — affects their studies. Manchin noted the particular challenges of a rural territory.
“There’s no way, with our population base in some of our rural areas, that a private carrier’s going to make major investments for five or 10 families that live in one part of the county,” he said. “We know that. That’s where the federal government steps in. For us to be the superpower of the world, for us to have the opportunities that every person in America should have, then we have to make investments as a country.”
Manchin also noted that mountainous terrain tends to generate higher broadband costs than flat lands.
Manchin also discussed the importance of accurate broadband maps, and his website says that he and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., have “introduced the Map Improvement Act of 2019 to ensure that federal funding for broadband coverage expansion goes to the places where it is most needed.”
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