CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – House Committee on Technology and Infrastructure Vice-Chairman Daniel Linville, R-Cabell, today applauded a U.S. district judge’s decision that clears the way for mobile carriers Sprint and T-Mobile to merge, saying it will directly benefit development of high-speed broadband infrastructure in West Virginia.
U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero on Tuesday rejected claims brought by several state attorneys general challenging the merger, removing one of the last remaining obstacles for the two companies to combine.
Last May, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai secured a commitment from the companies to significantly expand high-speed 5G wireless infrastructure across rural America as a condition of their proposed merger.
Delegate Linville, who is also a member of the state Broadband Enhancement Council, said this crucial commitment will significantly advance high-speed broadband access across West Virginia.
“This deal will have a massive ripple effect when it comes to expanding wireless broadband access across rural areas of this country, and West Virginians will see a direct benefit as a result,” Delegate Linville said. “Having a strong third wireless carrier that’s committed to expanding infrastructure in our region will unleash competition among the other carriers to make sure they can serve as many customers as possible in our state.”
As part of the conditions agreed to with the FCC, the companies will be required to cover 97 percent of the nation’s population with high-speed wireless coverage in the next three years, and 99 percent within six years. It provided a specific emphasis on covering rural areas, with 85 percent of rural areas covered by 5G networks within three years, and 90 percent of rural areas covered within six years.
The companies further agreed to provide at least 90 percent of Americans with access to speeds of up to 100 Mbps, and 99 percent would have access to speeds of at least 50 Mbps.
The companies have also committed to providing a new home internet service to connect millions of rural and low-income consumers, including areas where no broadband service exists today, with high-speed access at a “aggressive price point.”
“The good news is that as this new, merged company expands its wireless and household internet infrastructure, it will cause other carriers to expand as well as they compete to cover as many customers as they can,” Delegate Linville said. “This new wave of expansion will also be made easier through the legislation we’ve advanced in the Legislature in recent years that updated broadband expansion policies in our state.”
In 2017, the Legislature passed House Bill 3093, which established broadband enhancement and expansion policies in the state, including allowing local communities to form co-ops to expand broadband infrastructure in their area. The Legislature further expanded upon this legislation in 2018 with House Bill 4629, and last year with Senate Bill 3, which created the West Virginia Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act.
This year, the House of Delegates is advancing House Bill 4015, which would streamline permitting processes and allow the state to contract with private carriers to use state-owned properties and buildings to locate and deploy broadband wireless infrastructure.
“The Legislature in recent years has been intensely focused on finding innovative ways to remove barriers and encourage investment in high-speed broadband and wireless infrastructure in our state,” Delegate Linville said. “I firmly believe that our efforts, combined with better competition among the various providers, will make significant headway toward achieving our goal of providing high-speed internet access to all West Virginians.”