"The planning councils are more familiar with the lay of the land," Simental said. "We're going to use the 11 regional plans as a foundation for a state plan. Currently, there is no state plan."
Also at Thursday's conference -- organized by the Central Appalachian Regional Network, a Huntington-based nonprofit group:
* Dan O'Hanlon, chairman of the West Virginia Broadband Deployment Council, said broadband service is now available to about 85 percent of West Virginia households -- up from 44 percent in 2008.
At the same time, more and more West Virginians are signing up for high-speed Internet service, he said. About 62 percent of households now subscribe to broadband where it's available -- up from 42 percent five years ago.
The Broadband Council recently funded projects that provide wireless Internet to rural communities, O'Hanlon said. The council plans to distribute about $2 million in grants later this year, and hopes to seek additional funding from the state Legislature in 2014.
* Herb Smith, Philippi's broadband director, spoke about the struggles of operating a city-owned broadband network. Smith's department has only two employees. The workers sometimes get assigned to other city jobs, such as picking up trash.
The city's broadband system makes enough money to cover its costs, and "that's about it," Smith said.
About 50 percent of residents signed up for broadband service, he said.
"It's a city service, just like sewer, water, garbage and electricity," Smith said.
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.