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05/19/2011
Survey shows lots left to do on broadband front

George Hohmann
Daily Mail Business Editor

A survey of state economic development professionals commissioned by Citynet shed some light on how important broadband is for business recruitment and retention.

One survey question was, "Have you ever lost a business prospect in part due to lack of broadband capacity, speed or cost?

One respondent wrote, "I have a project pending. (I will) probably lose it based on costs of broadband."

Another respondent wrote, "Yes, lost a company that looked at an existing building located in an area that doesn't have high-speed access. They ended up locating in another area."

One respondent wrote, "Our county may be losing our Licensed Practical Nurse program because Frontier cannot provide enough bandwidth for distance learning."

Yet another wrote, "Yes, we were looking at a possible location of a data center and the lack of affordable, large-capacity broadband was a deciding factor in them not locating in West Virginia."

The survey also asked respondents to add any other comments they might have regarding the importance of reasonably priced Internet broadband service.

One respondent wrote, "The key will be the price. West Virginia has an advantage with costs of power but broadband is a deal-killer unless Frontier makes a deal. There is little if no investment in modern infrastructure. There is no sense in being in a power generation state if you cannot benefit from it."

Another respondent wrote, "Broadband is important but we have to recognize it exists only as a piece of the puzzle. Educational opportunities, workforce, roads and infrastructure which (are) non-'electronic' in nature are really just as vital, over the long haul, in my opinion."

And there was this: "The lack of high-speed service in the rural areas totally extinguishes the possibility of new small business start-ups."

And this: "Broadband is very important for some businesses and not a factor at all for others. A factor maybe 30 percent of inquiries. Your questions are leading."

Another respondent said they believe the federal broadband grant to the state "has been misallocated and cannot meet the deadline nor the needs of the state's businesses in expanding broadband, let alone providing an economic development tool to those of us that need it. West Virginia needs highways, which can't be built overnight. We also need a broadband system that can be built in a matter of months if funds are allocated properly."

Many of the comments reinforce the views held by Jim Martin, Citynet's leader, who is an outspoken critic of the state's broadband deployment plan. Also, the poll was not conducted in a scientific manner. But as Citynet consultant Tom Susman said, "it gives you a sense of what is out there."

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