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Wild, Wonderful & Wired: Broadband springs with information and opportunity

Wild, Wonderful & Wired — Provided through a collaboration of Mission West Virginia, Future Generations Graduate School and Frontier Communications
Wild, Wonderful & Wired — Provided through a collaboration of Mission West Virginia,
Future Generations Graduate School and Frontier Communications

Editor’s Note: “Wild, Wonderful & Wired” is a collaboration of Mission West Virginia, Future Generations Graduate School and Frontier Communications. 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — At a summer auction in Pendleton County, the auctioneer begged for even just a $1 bid for complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica. No one wanted this hefty volume of the world’s knowledge, not just because the boxes were heavy and took up a lot of space but because broadband has come to this rural county, and more people are turning to the Internet for all kinds of learning and information.

Broadband is a technology that connects families, businesses, and institutions to the Internet – an electronic gateway to a world of information and communications. The Internet allows users to communicate efficiently with friends and family, conduct business, order goods and services, educate themselves and even watch reruns of popular television programs from the 1960s – everything from “Bonanza” to “The Andy Griffith Show.”

It is today’s version of the Encyclopedia Britannica and so much more.

Internet technology gained popularity with many Americans during the 1990s. Some places in California had broadband as early as 1999.  The Internet’s popularity grew as it became more available and people recognized its benefits.

West Virginia has seen recent extraordinary growth in broadband access. Service providers have expanded their land-based networks to accommodate more customers. Today, more than 90 percent of the households in the state have access to broadband service. Satellite broadband service can reach virtually every household in the state.

Although more available, it is fair to say that some people aren’t sure they need the Internet. That’s understandable. It’s still a relatively new technology in the Mountain State.

Many people have questions about broadband.

What does it do?

What can it do for my family and me?

Can I learn to use it?

Can I afford it?

Those are fair questions.

A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center showed that while 70 percent of American adults have home access to broadband, 34 percent of those without the service do not think they would ever need to use it. Almost as many believe they would have problems using the technology.

Those findings really are not surprising to those of us who know West Virginia. We understand that we want to know the value of something before we acquire it. We also want to be sure we can use it before we pay for it. That makes perfect sense.

Mission West Virginia and Future Generations Graduate School – two nonprofit organizations that have trained thousands of West Virginians about technology and the Internet – have found that most of their students learn that computers and the Internet are great assets that can make their lives easier. Access to the Internet enhances learning, searching for jobs, conducting business, and even trading pictures with family members who live several states away.

A Future Generations trainer in rural Roane County shared a story about one of her students – a farmer who never before had touched a computer. He spent some time at the local training center to ask questions and learn the basics. He was diligent and caught on.

“He had gone from never seeing a computer up close to surfing the Web like a pro,” the trainer recalled.

That same man uses the Internet now to support his business, buy materials online, and also communicate with friends who now live away from West Virginia.

— “Wild, Wonderful & Wired” is a collaboration of Mission West Virginia, Future Generations Graduate School and Frontier Communications. Mission West Virginia and Future Generations Graduate School are nonprofit organizations that have provided computer and Internet training to West Virginia residents. Readers interested in learning more about computers and using the Internet are encouraged to contact  local friends, neighbors or organizations that provide training.  A list of computer labs with trained mentors is available online at: www.futurewv.org/computer-centers. In addition, persons interested in receiving training or purchasing a computer through Mission West Virginia may call 304-523-0623.

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