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OPINION

THE ROWAN REPORT: Pandemic showed us need for Internet

Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Del. Ruth Rowan

By Del. Ruth Rowan

The 2021 Session of the 85th Legislature has been like no other that I have ever experienced here in Charleston. Masks are required in The Capitol and only two rooms are large enough to hold committee meetings—the House Chamber and the Government Organization Room. Between each meeting members have to be evacuated from the rooms so that they can be thoroughly sanitized. Galleries are reserved for delegates not wanting to wear masks or not wanting to remain on the floor during sessions. The West Gallery is reserved for a few members of the media. The halls are mostly empty with only a scant few scheduled visitors.

          Starting out the session this year was Mineral County Day.  Michael Price, the recently retired CEO of Burlington United Methodist Family Services, was the honoree this year. His hard work at BUMFS and in the community made him a very worthy choice for this year’s Mineral County Day. Many obstacles had to be overcome this year and all meetings had to be virtual or videoed—including our citation presentation for Mike.  Randy Crane, Patsy Koontz, and all the members of the Mineral County Day event are to be congratulated for their efforts in making this happen during the pandemic.

          Among the bills that I have sponsored this year is HB2002.  This bill expands accessibility to broadband internet in West Virginia. It will expand on existing broadband laws that we have passed over the last few years. It will make it less expensive and easier for providers of internet services to install broadband fiber.  It will also make it easier for local governments to enter into co-ops to expand broadband.

          The pandemic that we have been enduring over this past year has shown our entire state how vitally important dependable internet is in our area. I know how much it has impacted your family as it has impacted mine. Through Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings I was able to continue working on committees in Charleston and across the country. I can’t say that all of these meetings went without internet problems on my end or their end.

My daughter, a sixth grade science teacher, has had many interesting lessons from her computer. However, in the middle of some of her lessons a student or two might disappear. One day as she was teaching a lesson she disappeared.  As she struggled to get back on, she could hear her students saying, “Where did the teacher go?” 

My  grandson was able to have classes with his classmates at the West Virginia School for the Deaf and was able to design this year’s Christmas card for the school.

Some of the stories I am hearing from our community have been sad as parents and grandparents are struggling to get their children and grandchildren to sites where they can get reception. We need to guarantee that this generation and the next can have quality access to internet services.

          I will be in Charleston until April 16th.  During that time the best way to contact me is:  Phone:  304-340-3157, Email:  ruth.rowan@wvhouse.gov.