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Spend broadband funds wisely

The $50 million Gov. Jim Justice plans to use to expand access to broadband internet service in West Virginia, in reaction to shortcomings made evident by the COVID-19 crisis, will be eaten up with little to show for it if officials are not careful.

Don’t think so? Remember “Routergate,” the fiasco several years ago in which state officials spent $24 million on a similar initiative — and accomplished little?

Justice has a plan to dole out $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds sent to our state. He proposes devoting $50 million to broadband expansion serving both distance learning and “tele-health” initiatives.

Listen to county-level officials, especially in public schools, governor. Many have good ideas, such as mobile internet “hotspots” to help students in homes without hard-wired access.

It will be tempting for some in Charleston to use the money for big-picture projects — but the whole $50 million would accomplish few of them. Instead, the goal should be getting the most internet access to the most now-unserved people, even if by what the techie crowd might refer to as “inelegant” methods. With limited funds, Mountain State residents need to maximize the bang for our bucks.

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