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Morgan Co. protesters demand broadband

November 19, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- A group of Morgan County residents held picket signs in front of the Verizon office on Wednesday to protest the company's inability to provide broadband Internet service in their area.

Local resident Jennifer Carpenter-Peak organized the event that had about 15 people, including children, holding up signs along U.S. 522 asking drivers to honk their horns if they wanted better Internet service.

A lot of honking was heard.

Carpenter-Peak said she and her family live about 12 miles south of Berkeley Springs in the Colonial Village subdivision and cannot be connected to the high-speed service. Her husband, Bob Peak, has a home-based business and needs high-speed service.

"Broadband is not a luxury. It's a necessity," Carpenter-Peak said in a written statement. "Are you telling me that we can wire the county for electricity and telephone service, but we can't wire it for broadband Internet service?"

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What confuses and frustrates Carpenter-Peak is that Verizon customers are connected to broadband just two miles away at Cacapon State Park.

"People literally around us are connected, but not in our subdivision," she said.

Carpenter-Peak said Julia Ludwick at the Verizon office in Hagerstown told her a possible installation date could be in November 2009.

"We are working as hard as we can to reach Colonial Village and elsewhere in Morgan County," Verizon spokesperson Harry J. Mitchell said. "We will continue to expand."

Verizon provides service to the eastern part of the county, while FrontierNet serves the west, said Jim Hoyt, who provides computer service to county residents and business owners.

An April broadband map from Connect West Virginia shows the vast majority of the eastern part of Morgan County is not connected to high-speed Internet.

"If Verizon continues to drag its feet in providing broadband Internet service to Morgan County, then the state of West Virginia ought to step in and demand that they get the job done," Carpenter-Peak said.

Bill Clark, economic development authority director for the county, said it is one of the county's goals to get broadband Internet service throughout the county. He said Verizon has expanded its service in the county, but not enough.

"It may take citizens to become engaged to get Verizon and other Internet and cell providers to respond to our needs," Clark said. "We are a growing county, and the number of home-based businesses in the county is astounding, and they need broadband access."

Comcast offers high-speed Internet service, but it is not yet available in that part of the county, Bob Peak said. Wireless Internet service is not available there either, he said.

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