The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

July 15, 2013

Study ranks W.Va. low in home computer ownership

The Associated Press

CHARLESTON — About one third of West Virginia households do not own a computer, which is the second-lowest rate among the 50 states, a new federal study shows.

West Virginia’s ownership rate was 35.5 percent. Mississippi had the lowest rate, 35.4 percent. Washington state had the highest rate, 85 percent, according to the study, “Exploring the Digital Nation,” by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

West Virginia also had the eighth-lowest Internet adoption rate. About 59 percent of West Virginia households subscribe to high-speed Internet, an increase from previous years. The national rate is 70 percent, the study said.

The findings come as West Virginia makes a push to expand broadband access across the state.

“Even with our improved ‘take rate’ up in the 60-percent range, we are still way behind most of the country,” Dan O’Hanlon, chairman of the West Virginia Broadband Deployment Council, told the Charleston Gazette.

Lee Fisher, a member of the broadband council, said the report is as much about demographics as it is about Internet adoption rates.

“So in those states where an aging population, like in West Virginia, is an issue, I don’t believe you will ever have the adoption rates that people seem to shoot for until the demographic changes,” Fisher told the newspaper.

West Virginia could increase its Internet adoption rate by working with nonprofit groups that provide refurbished computers to people who don’t have them, O’Hanlon said.

“The report actually shows us there are things the broadband council can do to raise our rate of broadband use in West Virginia,” he said.

The study also said 3 percent of Internet users in West Virginia still use dial-up connections through phones, the third-highest rate among the states.

Fisher said state leaders must do more to promote the use of broadband technology “as an economic development tool.”

“Until West Virginia finds this person or group of persons to not only talk about it every day and fund it every year, I don’t think West Virginia will ever be at the top of any of these surveys,” said Fisher.