WHEELING – U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito began
a tour of the state’s small businesses on July 21 in an effort to highlight
West Virginia small businesses as a means to grow the economy.
“The most important thing in West Virginia is getting people
to work,” Capito, a Republican, told The West Virginia
Capito said there are lots of opportunities for small
business in the state. She said 95 percent of West Virginians are working for
However, Capito said one challenge faced by small business
owners in West Virginia is limited access to broadband. In addition, she said
the businesses want trained workers, but training is not always readily
“Small businesses face obstacles in the form of financing
and networking,” Capito said.
In March 2015, Capito successfully introduced legislation to
reauthorize the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), an economic development agency made up of federal, state and local partners. The five-year, $100
million commitment to ARC includes $10 million per year to improve rural broadband
In May 2015, Capito announced the Capito Connect plan,
which looks to address the lack of broadband access in West Virginia. Capito
Connect creates a plan to use community feedback to build a state-specific plan
for bringing broadband to West Virginia, to build collaborations between public
and private entities to bring broadband to the state and to find “creative
solutions” that will help bring affordable broadband access to schools, private
businesses and private citizens in West Virginia.
Capito’s office said in 2015 that a study by the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) indicated that 56 percent of West Virginia residents did not have acceptable
access to broadband services, with that figure jumping to as high as 74 percent
in rural areas of the state. According to a news release this month, those
numbers had improved to 30 percent of West Virginians lacking access to
broadband and as high as 48 percent in rural areas.
Capito said access to broadband is essential for developing
businesses, improving education and sharing ideas. She said widespread broadband
access will also boost West Virginia’s efforts to compete and succeed in a
Despite the challenges, including limited access to
broadband, Capito said she is hearing from the small businesses she has visited
on the tour that a lot of good things are happening on the West Virginia small
Capito said she ultimately wants to see products made in
West Virginia being sold around the world.
“To keep young people here, we’ve got to really look at what
the future of small business is,” Capito said.
On July 11, Capito joined with other senators in an effort urging
the FCC to update the Universal Service
Fund’s (USF) Mobility Fund, which is aimed at providing broadband service to
rural and underserved areas.
In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, the senators called
for the agency to prioritize new mobile broadband deployment in these areas as
well as preserving and upgrading mobile broadband where it is currently available.
“The expansion of rural broadband should be a top priority
of federal and state policymakers, as expanded deployment in rural areas will
address important economic, educational, health care and public safety goals,”
the letter said.
On July 26, Capito hosted FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai at a
roundtable discussion aimed at drawing attention to the state’s broadband