Broadband Summit at NRAO
Mike Holstine has been working on getting internet connectivity in Pocahontas County for over fourteen years. “It’s more than a personal effort. It’s just an absolute need,” he said. “It’s akin to the rural electrification of America that occurred back in the 20s and 30s and 40s. We needed to get electricity to everyone back then. Well, we need to get high speed internet connectivity to everyone now.”
Holstine is the Business Manager at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, WV, where there will be a Broadband Summit on Wednesday, July 23rd. He explained that the summit is a chance for citizens and businesses to learn about existing and proposed broadband projects in the County and discuss the possible impact of high‐speed internet connectivity.
“The technologies are there,” Holstine said, “and we can try to cooperatively work together to get these services to the people that need them. And it goes into every facet of everyday life: education for our students, online distance learning. We have businesses that have not moved into this area—and we’re talking small business—because they did not have access to internet that they need. We need to change that, and I’m hoping that this summit will get everyone together in the same room and let us discuss these needs and see what we can do to move forward.”
Holstine believes that a high-speed internet infrastructure could lead to overall economic growth in the area. During the Summit, he’ll present on studies that show how this type of change would benefit small businesses, the real estate market, and the commercial market. “It also raises the median income of the people that live in the areas that have that infrastructure. There are studies through broadband communities and FCC reports that demonstrate this. It’s almost a single infrastructure item that would touch every aspect of the citizenry and the economic development potential of the area.”
The West Virginia Broadband Deployment Council (WVBDC), who works to administer and oversee broadband distribution in the state, will hold its monthly meeting during the summit at NRAO. The meeting will start at 9am. “It’s the first meeting that they’ve held outside of Charleston in six years,” Holstine said, “and the public is invited to attend that meeting.”
After the WVBDC meeting, discussions and demonstrations will take place until 4pm. Citynet, Spruce Knob Seneca Rocks Telecommunications, Shentel, Frontier Communications, Highland Telephone Cooperative, and Hardy Telecommunications, Inc. will be in attendance. Representatives from the US Department of Agriculture will also attend the summit to discuss funding available through the USDA’s rural telecommunications program.
“It has actually been said by some folks that rural areas don’t seem to need broadband connectivity the way they need them in urban areas,” Holstine said. “In actuality, I think that’s not only false, but in a lot of ways, we need broadband connectivity more than urban areas. We have the same needs that the urban areas have—we have banks, we have hospitals, we have government services that the normal citizen needs access to. And for us, without the ability to connect through the internet, we have generally a pretty long drive ahead of us in order to get to these services. And so broadband connectivity is even more important as far as I’m concerned for rural areas than it is in city areas.”
The Broadband Summit will be Wednesday, July 23rd at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank.
“We need to become an example of what you really can do in rural America. I think we can do it, and I think we need to do it.”