Capito, McKinley discuss broadband at Oglebay | News, Sports, Jobs

WHEELING: Oglebay Park consists of more than 2,000 acres of trees, hills and valleys, terrain that is not ideal for providing quality broadband Internet access to resort cabins, according to park officials.

US Senator Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va., hosted a broadband summit Wednesday at Oglebay Park’s Wilson Lodge to discuss the technology challenges and Internet needs of those doing business in the 21st century. Attendees included US Rep. David B. McKinley, R-Wheeling; Doug Kinkoph, associate administrator for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Office of Internet Growth and Connectivity; Internet providers and other government officials.

“I think broadband is the most essential item in West Virginia and one of the necessities,” Capito said. “We have fallen short. I initiated a capital funding plan (for broadband) in the Senate to address this challenge.

“I know there are places here in the Northern Panhandle that are still neglected and neglected. We have a great opportunity through the infrastructure bill: all homes and all businesses should be served.”

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed last year provides money to expand broadband to underserved areas and requires accurate mapping to show where these areas are, Capito explained.

“We know that here at Wilson Lodge and Oglebay, a lot of the cabins have good internet connections, some not so good.” she said. “We need all those served to serve the community and the traveling visitor.”

Tom McCroskey, director of information technology for Oglebay Park, said West Virginia generally doesn’t have enough access to high-quality Internet connectivity, even though federal legislation to increase funding for broadband expansion across the country It has helped.

Oglebay has adequate broadband service from Comcast at Wilson Lodge and its main structures, he explained. Meanwhile, the park is working with Citynet to bring broadband to outlying cabins.

Recent updates inside Wilson Lodge allow conference attendees to conference call from Glessner Auditorium with someone in Los Angeles, explained Robert Peckenpaugh, president and CEO of the Wheeling Park Commission.

But an attendee could also bring their family to the conference, and the group would stay in one of the cabins on the property. If three family members want to watch different Netflix shows at the same time, a problem can occur, she acknowledged.

Oglebay is now looking for a way to take over the task of providing Internet service to the cabins, McCroskey explained. This would allow park employees to address any issues immediately and not have to wait for assistance from a third party.

“If we have it under our control, we can take care of it right then and there,” he continued.

People who want to host conferences, meetings and weddings at the resort often first inquire about broadband availability, and Oglebay must meet those expectations, McCroskey said.

He is not yet sure what the cost will be to gain the necessary access to the cabins.

McKinley explained that funding for broadband expansion across the country was an important component of the federal infrastructure bill passed by Congress, but it hasn’t had the traction it should because most communities that need Internet of high quality are found in rural areas.

“Congress is controlled by larger cities,” McKinley continued. “Los Angeles has 22 congressmen, Chicago has 15 congressmen and New York (City) has 16. Montana has one.

“When it comes to getting an allocation of appropriation money for broadband, New York and Los Angeles are going to say, ‘We’ve got ours. We don’t need to spend the money.’”

Smaller states need to form coalitions so they can talk about what they need, he added.

“And we need to have this (broadband)”, MacKinley said. “If we are going to play on an equal footing economically with business and health care, we have to be on the same plate. We have to make sure that more money goes to rural America instead of just to big cities.

“The big cities already have broadband. We don’t have it in West Virginia, not to the extent that we should.” he added.

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