Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Herald-Dispatch on high-speed internet access in West Virginia:
It’s no secret that West Virginia needs better access to high-speed internet service. From manufacturers who need enough bandwidth for transferring large amounts to data across the ocean to children doing their school lessons from a fast food parking lot while school is shut down because of COVID-19, internet speeds in West Virginia leave much to be desired.
Last week, Gov. Jim Justice had some good news on that front. Or did he?
Thursday, Justice announced that he had signed an executive order that made West Virginia eligible to receive up to $766 million in broadband infrastructure through the federal Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The program identified 121,000 households in the state that don’t have internet service and are eligible to be connected. Justice’s executive order removes the $50 million regulatory cap on the broadband infrastructure loan insurance program, which gives the state more flexibility to offer performance bonds to companies that bid on census tracts in the state.
Good news, right? Not according to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who is backing Justice’s opponent in the general election.
“West Virginia is not getting $776 million in federal funds through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund just because the governor signed an executive order saying he wants it to happen,” Manchin said in a statement released later in the day. “Unfortunately, as of the most recent FCC report on September 1st, there isn’t even a single Internet Service Provider in the state that’s eligible to bid on this funding right now.”
So now a need of businesses, health care, education and other important aspects of everyday life is caught up in partisan politics, which can only mean that progress will slow down or come to a stop while the two sides argue.
At one time, the availability of high-speed internet was a luxury. Today it is a game changer. It affects business opportunities, home values, education opportunities, entertainment and so many more parts of life. For whatever reason or reasons, West Virginia has lagged in obtaining this important public utility. In 2020 broadband connectivity is as much a utility as electricity, water and sewer service.
There’s a lot of talk going around about how smaller communities can attract telecommuters who no longer need to be in an office in the downtown of a large city. The mayor of Huntington has made recruiting those people one of his goals. The reality is, however, that no one is going to move their work to a state or a city that lacks widespread access to high-speed internet.
There is too much difference in available speeds between different areas of the state. In a time where high-speed internet can make a difference in so many ways, it’s clear West Virginia has a long way to go to being competitive with other areas.
It’s good that the two candidates and their supporters recognize this. Partisan word play is not going to solve the problem, however.
Here’s to hoping this important part of economic and educational development doesn’t become caught up in partisan politics.
The Intelligencer on some West Virginia University students disregarding coronavirus safety measures:
Disappointing stupidity. Mass insanity. A geronticidal plot.
Pick one, or even all three to describe the behavior of some West Virginia University students. Whatever the explanation for their behavior, it simply must stop.
Since students — mostly freshmen, it appears — began gathering for fall classes on WVU’s main campus in Morgantown, there has been an upsurge of COVID-19 cases. Why? Check your social media feeds. The explanation is circulating in the form of pictures showing young people by the scores lining up to get into Morgantown bars.
“We’ve got people standing on top of people. We’ve got no masks,” noted Gov. Jim Justice after seeing some of the photos. He promptly ordered that bars in Morgantown be closed.
Between bar-hopping and big private parties in apartments, some WVU students are paying no heed whatever to warnings about spreading the disease. Their behavior flies in the face of university rules, along with disciplinary action taken against some violators.
Taking chances with COVID-19 is “a flagrant disregard for our community’s safety, both the campus community and the city of Morgantown,” WVU President E. Gordon Gee said Wednesday.
As he pointed out, it appears most WVU students are doing what they can to help in the battle against COVID-19. But some are ignoring the rules with a determination that seems almost a civil disobedience campaign.
Except there is no worthwhile cause for this one. If the young students are aware the virus poses little danger to them, they also know it can be deadly to older people.
People like their parents and grandparents. People who are proud of their college kids and may remain so even after the students have come home carrying deadly doses of COVID-19 to older people in their hometowns.
After all, who’s to say how the virus broke out in a town? Community tracing takes time and is not infallible — especially when college students who already have demonstrated their dishonesty by agreeing to WVU’s rules, then breaking them, lie about their behavior.
Do we sound angry? Parents and guardians of WVU students should be upset, too — enough to tell the kids that if they continue to put others’ lives at risk, they will be told to come home and explore the job market.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail on a live music show that has been on hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic:
When thinking of West Virginia exports, coal and natural gas typically top the list. Then there’s the massive cultural export the state has in Mountain Stage, the live music show recorded (primarily) in Charleston that airs on hundreds of public radio stations across the country and beyond.
While showcasing regional and Appalachian music since the early 1980s, the show also has drawn to West Virginia some of the industry’s biggest names, including R.E.M., Wilco, Nick Lowe and Bill Monroe.
Unfortunately, like just about everything else that showcases live performances in front of an audience, Mountain Stage has been on hiatus since March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Rebroadcasts from the archives have filled the void over the past six months.
The good news is the show is looking for a way to resume, according to executive producer Adam Harris, who addressed the situation Wednesday before the West Virginia Educational Broadcasting Authority. The bad news is figuring out how to restart the show is going to be a difficult nut to crack.
One obvious solution would be to record without an audience, although it still takes a good number of people to put the show together. Compounding the problem is that many performers, quite rightly, aren’t traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic. That problem could be solved by featuring local and regional acts.
However, while there is certainly a lot of musical talent in West Virginia, Mountain Stage has set the bar high on the eclectic nature of the music it features and the big names the show attracts. As Harris put it, not only would the show quickly burn through the number of performers it could feature, but local talent on a national, iconic show might not meet listeners’ expectations.
In short, there are a lot of hurdles to clear. But there’s still hope. The show is going through a sort of dry run later this month, to see if recording while maintaining safety protocols is feasible. If it is, Mountain Stage producers might be able to convince artists they can come and perform in a safe setting.
In the meantime, perhaps another solution will present itself. Here’s hoping Mountain Stage finds a way to move forward soon.