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Broadband: Officials must take advantage of opportunity

Last Monday’s announcement that social media giant Facebook will lay a heavy-duty fiber optic cable across West Virginia was truly big news. Now, state officials should prepare to capitalize on it.

It was appropriate that U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., joined state officials and Facebook representatives in revealing the plan. Capito has been a national leader in efforts to extend high-speed internet facilities to underserved areas like our state.

Facebook’s plan is for a 600-mile cable beginning in Ashburn, Va., and ending in Columbus. About 275 miles of it will run through West Virginia.

Kevin Salvadori, Facebook’s director of network investments, described the cable this way: “It’s almost like an interstate for the internet.”

Internet providers will be able to access the line, once it is completed in 18-24 months.

That will require high-speed lines connecting providers to the Facebook line, however. Think of them as access roads and on-ramps.

And that is where state officials come into the picture. They have been active for several years in efforts to expand internet access. The Facebook cable gives them a target at which to shoot– and takes away some of their excuses.

With, we hope, some federal funding assistance, they should begin planning now for West Virginians to take full advantage of the new line.

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