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West Virginia Digital Divide

((Banner: Connectivity))
((Reporter: Julie Taboh))
((Camera: Adam Greenbaum))
((Adapted by: Zdenko Novacki))
((Map: Summers County, West Virginia))
((Joe Brouse, New River Gorge Regional Development
The lack of broadband coverage and reliability in many parts
of the state of West Virginia contributes to the challenges
that we face in terms of economic development, recruiting
business and improving the quality of life. Businesses
expect it. Households expect it. If people want to live here,
they need to have access. It's an aspect of being in the
modern world.
((Fritz Boettner, Sprouting Farms))
In order to improve the bottom line for the farmer, we have to
keep, what I would call, the food hub costs down. So, that's
the cost of aggregation, distribution, marketing, all those
things. And that needs to be self-sustainable itself. In order
to do that, you have to use technology. And when I say
technology, I mean using, like, cloud-based software
systems that help manage your inventory producers, no
matter where they are in your network, which stretches for
300 miles, and you need connectivity in order to do that.
And I think in West Virginia, connectivity is a severe
((Ken Allman, Small Business Owner))
It's very difficult to operate a business without reliable
broadband, without reliable mobile communications as well.
The two really complement each other and you need them in
order to function on a day to day basis.
((Terri Giles, Appalachian Headwaters))
We're five miles, six miles (8 10 km.) outside of a little
town, with a little townhouse broadband. But, you get five
miles down the road, and you don't. So, that's the challenge
for us in order to expand and grow, that we need to have
broadband and these things.
((Fritz Boettner, Sprouting Farms))
Right now, I would say, like, half of our farmers, maybe, do
not have access to solid internet or even cell phone
communication to make these types of transactions happen.
If I'm thinking about the future and we're going to grow these
farmers and they're going to be doing more, we want more
farmers in the network, that connectivity issue needs to be
dealt with.
((Ken Allman, Small Business Owner))
They say it's the last mile that makes the critical difference in
a telecommunications infrastructure and it can make a huge
difference. There's parts of our state where you might have
broadband, but you don't have water. There's parts of our
state where we have water, but you may not have
broadband. It's important to have all these essential
functions in order for commerce to take place.