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Support Local Internet Efforts

Perhaps state plans to extend internet access in West Virginia will do some good — eventually. But, as was the case earlier this year, it appears local initiatives will have to take the lead in serving children who are supposed to be learning from home, but without any way to get online there.

Last month, state officials revealed a plan to set up 1,000 wireless internet hotspots throughout West Virginia. The idea was to ensure children could get online to do school work this fall, if for one reason or another they are unable to be in the classroom.

State school Superintendent Clayton Burch reported a few days ago that the work was progressing well. But its benefits have limits, even if the 1,000 hotspots are installed. They will be located in public buildings such as schools, libraries and state parks — and that means that to get online, many students will have to ask their parents to drive them to wi-fi hotspot parking lots.

Just last week, Gov. Jim Justice and a bipartisan group of legislators revealed plans to tap into as much as $760 million in federal funds to extend internet access throughout the Mountain State. That will take years.

Meanwhile, some of the students expected to begin fall semester work this week from home will not have convenient internet access.

Just a few days ago, Ohio County school officials reported results of a survey of students’ families. It disclosed that 343 students’ homes do not have internet access. School Superintendent Kimberly Miller said county specialists are working on ways to address that.

Good for them. Last spring, you may recall, one quick fix was using mobile hotspots, with wi-fi equipment mounted in vehicles such as school buses, to provide access in some rural areas. Perhaps that may be practical again this fall.

In terms of meeting homebound students’ internet needs, local school officials are serving as first responders. In that role, they should receive top priority in accessing state resources ranging from expertise to funding.

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