CHARLESTON, W.Va – Delegate Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, and Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker, today said legislation they helped champion will soon begin to open opportunities for high-speed internet access across the state.
On Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice signed House Bill 3093, Establishing Broadband Enhancement and Expansion Policies. Delegate Hanshaw was the bill’s lead sponsor, and Sen. Smith was a key advocate to advance it through the Senate.
“I believe this is the best piece of legislation I’ve worked on in the Legislature, because it will empower our citizens and local governments to finally bring broadband internet to their communities,” Delegate Hanshaw said. “Communities like the ones I represent in rural Clay County have waited far too long to join the internet age, and it’s held back development and economic opportunities in our areas. This bill will go a long way toward changing that.”
“This law will boost competition and bring better internet service to our state,” Sen. Smith said. “For too long, our state has been underserved by large providers who do not provide adequate service for our rural areas. This bill was a huge step forward in opening up the market to other options for high-speed internet.”
The new law, which received broad, bipartisan support in both houses, will reform and expand the duties of the state Broadband Enhancement Council, and promote practices that improve broadband access in the state. That includes allowing for the establishment of cooperative associations to help residents and businesses obtain internet services, and establishing new policies and protocols for microtrenching and make-ready pole access – both of which are important for expanding and expediting broadband infrastructure.
Delegate Hanshaw said the bill, which is revenue-neutral, is a good way to promote competition without the use of state subsidies – something that would be difficult given the state’s current budget struggles.
“We needed to find a way to spur investment and open up the market without solely relying on the government,” Delegate Hanshaw said. “This bill will use free-market principles to empower people to make investments themselves. This will boost competition, improve service and allow our residents and businesses to take full advantage of the opportunities broadband access provides.”
Under the new law, up to 20 businesses or families will be able to create nonprofit co-ops to provide broadband service. It will also allow up to three cities or counties combine efforts and build high-speed networks. The co-ops can then form their own internet service or contract with another co-op or existing internet provider for service.
“This law could transform our rural communities, and I encourage them to take full advantage of it,” Sen. Smith said. “We still have a lot of work to do to expand broadband access in our state, but this law is going to open the door to a flood of new investment that will improve access for our residents and businesses.”