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Broadband Service For All Impractical

November 5, 2013
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Some people seem to view providing high-speed Internet access to everyone as the holy grail of the age of technology. They ignore the law of diminishing returns, which applies to communications as to every other endeavor.

During a Monday "summit" on the issue of broadband Internet access in West Virginia, representatives of big companies involved in the work made it clear 100 percent service is unrealistic.

About 91 percent of Mountain State residents already have broadband service. As Michael Keleman of Suddenlink, pointed out, "We still don't have water and sewer to 90 percent of our homes."

Providing everyone who lives in some places - urban areas, for example - with broadband service may be realistic. But in rural areas, especially West Virginia, challenges of terrain and isolation mean the cost of laying cable to carry Internet signals can be prohibitive.

It was suggested during the summit, held in Morgantown with U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller as host, that more government regulation could speed the process of extending broadband coverage.

That is a typical bureaucratic reaction - and it is dead wrong. As Comcast Vice President Mark Reilly noted during the summit, telephone companies are highly regulated and "not everyone in the U.S. has service."

Of course, it would be nice if everyone in West Virginia had broadband access - along with water, sewers, telephone lines and good roads. But using taxpayers' money or forcing businesses to lay high-cost lines - at customer expense - is absurd. Not every problem can be solved by government and sometimes, new regulations just make things worse.

 
 

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