Broadband in W.Va. slowed by governor’s veto

Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 8:01 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Equipping you with a better internet connection -- that was a top priority for the West Virginia House of Delegates last year, but then everything fizzled.

“We don’t want people paying for services they don’t receive, and we want to make sure people are treated fairly,” said Del. Daniel Linville. “Most especially, if someone is under a contract, as for instance, with an Internet company or something like that, that just midstream they don’t change a bunch of fees.”

House Bill 4001, sponsored by Linville, R-Cabell, received overwhelming support in the House and Senate.

It was then vetoed by Gov. Jim Justice. Among his stated reasons, potential conflict with federal law and concerns expressed by internet providers.

Still yet, Justice’s veto message expressed support for the bill’s intent and went on to say, “I will request the Legislature take up this important matter, with input from all interested parties, in the upcoming Special Session.”

“But that never happened,” WSAZ NewsChannel 3 Investigative/Political Reporter Curtis Johnson said during Wednesday’s press briefing. “Why did you not keep your promise, and what is your plan going forward?”

“I haven’t not kept my promise, and we’re still working on bills to sponsor and to resolve these issues. You’ll see them very, very, very soon and everything, but we just haven’t gotten it done quite yet,” Justice replied “There’s no need to put something up in a special session until there’s a consensus of how we can get it done.”

House Bill 4001 would have forced Internet companies to give timely credits or refunds for service interruptions, end policies that require you to rent a specific modem and stop charging a fee to receive a paper bill. It also included a death penalty of sorts -- a way to block state funding for providers that mislead the state.

Linville believes those reforms fell victim to a summer focused on abortion and tax reform. His plan for this session -- split the proposals into smaller chunks.

“So that should there be concerns with one of them, that we don’t lose the other good bits of the policy moving forward,” he said. “I’m hopeful that everything that we would pass as a Legislature certainly can be accepted by the executive branch and put to work.”

The first of those bills could be introduced Wednesday, Jan. 11, when West Virginia begins its 60-day, regular legislative session.