WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) is encouraging President-elect Donald Trump’s administration to include broadband deployment measures as a core component of any infrastructure proposals.
In a letter to the president-elect, Capito addressed the need for expanded broadband access in rural America, including in West Virginia, as well as her desire to work with the incoming Trump administration on this important issue.
“Trump is talking about a large infrastructure bill,” Capito told The West Virginia Record. “For West Virginia a major leg on that stool has to be high-speed Internet.”
Improving broadband accessibility in West Virginia remains one of Capito’s top priorities since she was sworn into the U.S. Senate in 2015. As many as 74 percent of residents in the Mountain State lack proper access to broadband services that meet Federal Communications Commission benchmarks.
Specifically, Capito has led efforts to address the broadband access issue through her Capito Connect Plan and the recently launched Senate broadband caucus.
“West Virginia needs to grow and diversify its overall economy, and Internet access is fundamental to that transition,” Capito said. “Broadband can revolutionize rural communities by linking them to the national, and even global, economy. [Broadband is the] gateway to economic growth.”
Capito said in her letter to the president-elect that she is looking forward to working with the Trump administration “to advance policies that bridge the digital divide across the country and provide the broadband infrastructure that our nation’s urban and rural communities need to succeed.”
“No other technology has become such a platform for innovation, competition and economic growth,” Capito wrote in her letter to Trump. “The same smart government policies you have outlined for our nation’s pipelines and highways should be applied to robust broadband deployment.”
According to Capito’s letter, a recent FCC study indicates 56 percent of West Virginia residents do not have access to broadband services that meet its benchmarks. In rural areas of the state, this number is as high as 74 percent.
“Rural America is getting left out of this,” Capito said.
The senator wrote that West Virginia cannot attract and keep new business ventures if its residents are not connected through access to broadband.
Capito said policies that generate broadband expansion and access include reducing barriers to investment in infrastructure, streamlining the regulatory environment for wireless providers, encouraging public-private partnerships and ensuring accountability on behalf of the taxpayer for federally funded projects.
Capito said one way to expand coverage to rural regions is to offer more federal money to Internet providers willing to participate in the expansion efforts.
“Create incentives to push it out to areas that are under-served,” Capito said. ''Trump was very much tuned in to rural America and those who have lost their jobs.”