CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Broadband Deployment Council members plan to ask state lawmakers to redefine broadband speeds to expand the pool of applicants seeking funds for projects that increase high-speed Internet service in rural communities.
Last month, the council distributed $2.05 million in funds for broadband projects, but held back another $2 million.
On Wednesday, council members established a subcommittee to draw up proposed legislation that would increase the minimum broadband speed necessary to qualify for state funds.
"All we're trying to do is update the definition of broadband," said Jim Martin, a Broadband Deployment Council member.
State law now sets 200 kilobits per second as the minimum broadband speed, one of the slowest limits in the nation.
"It's nonsensical in this day and age," said Gale Given, West Virginia state government's chief technology officer.
Several council members suggested setting the minimum broadband speed at 4 megabits per second.
The Federal Communications Commission suggested that every U.S. household have a 4-megabit Internet download speed by 2020. The FCC determined that minimum speed would be sufficient to send and receive emails, download Web pages and use videoconferencing.
The subcommittee is expected to recommend proposed legislation and a minimum broadband download speed at next month's meeting. The regular legislative session starts Feb. 13.
With the higher minimum broadband speed, council members expect more companies to apply for the $2 million in leftover funds, which could be used to build wireless towers and wireline Internet networks.
Council member Dana Waldo warned his colleagues that constantly changing broadband speeds could lead to the council's distributing money to projects that duplicate service in the same areas.
"We'll get tax dollars chasing tax dollars," said Waldo, who also heads Frontier Communications' West Virginia operations.