CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – Delegate Daniel Linville, R-Cabell; Senator Robert Plymale, D-Wayne; and leaders of the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council today announced the creation of a new statewide broadband internet availability map.
The new, highly detailed West Virginia Broadband Availability map will allow lawmakers at the state and federal levels to identify unserved and underserved areas of the state and direct broadband expansion efforts – including financial resources and expansion programs – to those communities.
“Previous broadband availability maps – such as those provided by the FCC – relied on information from carriers and used the speeds they were advertising in an area, not the speeds actually received by consumers,” Delegate Linville said. “Our first-of-its-kind map instead uses actual speed data from consumers, and the result is now the most accurate, detailed map of where broadband is and is not in the state of West Virginia.”
With financial support from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the West Virginia Department of Commerce and state Development Office’s Office of Broadband, the most detailed mapping of the state of West Virginia’s broadband internet availability was recently completed.
Utilizing hundreds of thousands of broadband internet speed tests taken by West Virginians since the beginning of 2020, this interactive map is likely the most accurate and detailed such map in the nation.
“As COVID-19 changed so much about our daily lives, it became more important than ever that we have better information on which we can base so many of our decisions,” Delegate Linville said. “Working together with the Broadband Council staff, consultants and partners, we have largely solved a challenge our nation has faced and can serve as a model for efforts around the country.
“This incredibly detailed map provides us the best information we’ve ever had to identify the areas where we need to focus our broadband expansion efforts and resources,” Delegate Linville said. “I look forward to sharing our methods with other states and our federal partners.”
The mapped areas utilize only speed tests that were associated with location data, excluded cellular connections, incorporated areas where speeds did not meet the FCC definition of broadband, and are accurate to a few feet.
Senator Plymale also lauded the state’s leadership.
“West Virginia continues to identify comprehensive approaches to provide affordable broadband options for our citizens,” Senator Plymale said. “Our approach has been tying broadband to economic development and improving data to facilitate policy direction and investment. Delegate Linville has made relentless efforts to provide a model for our state and others to follow. I applaud his efforts and pledge to work with him to provide solutions to provide access to broadband.”
The result is a publicly available geographic information system (GIS) map with details of existing, ongoing, and pending publicly supported projects, Rural Digital Opportunity Fund eligible areas (which are unchallenged areas that are currently unserved), FCC Form 477 maps and detailed, granularly mapped areas which are unserved or underserved inside census tracts that otherwise were considered entirely served.
West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council Chairman Robert Morris also praised the achievement.
“The primary charge of the Broadband Enhancement Council is to assist with the creation of an environment in which broadband can be developed in unserved and underserved areas of West Virginia,” Chairman Morris said. “I am proud of the work by our council members, staff, and consultants to produce this map which will help to direct public policy and funding for broadband expansion in our state. We look forward to continuing to work with the Governor, Legislature, other West Virginia agencies, and internet service providers to achieve this goal.”
Delegate Linville and Senator Plymale have committed to sharing the methodology and process with state governments and the Federal Communications Commission.
The interactive GIS map can be found at:broadband.wv.gov.
The lawmakers continue to urge West Virginians to take speed tests to constantly improve the availability map. Those speed tests can be taken here: https://broadband.wv.gov/west-virginia-internet-speed-test/.