Photo Courtesy of Lesley White
Senator Joe Manchin and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel spoke to upperclassmen in an approximately 45-minute assembly.
A handful of members of the community also attended including many civic and elected government leaders.
“Your voice is important,” Manchin told those in attendance. He repeatedly acknowledged that the internet and broadband coverage maps were wrong, and he polled students about their connectivity issues. He acknowledged that there was a serious problem and flaw with the maps, and he said he wanted to tackle the problem.
LCHS students agreed with his concerns by a large showing of hands to the questions he asked.
The majority of students raised their hands that they regularly experience connectivity issues in Lewis County. He told those attending that the maps that show 100 percent of WV covered were “wrong.”
FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel said she wanted to correct the problem with the map, and she encouraged all students to take the “internet speed test”. Senator Manchin went further to encourage all those with internet and broadband issues to contact the FCC or write letters of concern. He said he would get the information, statistics and issues to the FCC Chairman.
“You can change West Virginia by getting involved,” Manchin said. He said he wanted LC students to take the lead on this problem because not being connected was going to be detrimental to our youth’s future.
“If you can’t connect, you can’t compete,” Manchin told those in attendance. Mr. Steven Paugh, a longtime LC citizen, agrees. He said that connectivity is also a problem in the workplace, and many WV communities are at a disadvantage because of the lack of an effective broadband system.
Students had the opportunity to ask questions to Senator Manchin. Students were polled during last week’s advisory about internet and broadband and all students who had a question or concern were encouraged by teachers to ask questions during the assembly.
Though most students thought they could only ask questions about internet and broadband issues, Manchin opened up the floor to any question.
LCHS Students took advantage of it asking questions about the “dark web,” test scores, class size, union affiliation, and computer access. A member of the community even held up a piece of wiring as he explained his frustration about having a business relying on wiring that would not work.
Both Manchin and Rosenworcel agreed that it was frustrating and hoped that Lewis County could be part of the solution by participating in internet speed tests. Manchin said he saw it first-hand as he traveled to Lewis County as he tried to use his phone. Commissioner Rosenworcel shook her head in agreement.
Manchin also took time to talk to students about some of the issues facing the United States. He talked about the country being divided between political parties. He also addressed the rise of use of e-cigarettes and vaping and encouraged students to make solid choices.
The assembly ended with Junior Vincent Snuffer asking Manchin about his football loyalty as the hometown Minutemen were traveling to Senator Manchin’s home county and school, North Marion. Manchin said he hoped the game would end in a “tie”, but he did hold up a shirt and a foam LC finger.
Following the assembly, Manchin and Rosenworcel met with LC Commissioners Agnes Queen and Rod Wyman as well as other local officials. He also spoke to members of the community and media.
He then met with a smaller group of students in the library.
The history department helped organize the event with teachers tallying student responses, organizing the assembly, and providing refreshments and a press conference following the assembly.
YLA, Young Democrats, Young Republicans and journalism students attended the event.
LCHS Pro-Start students helped prepare and serve the refreshments.
To participate in the broadband test, Senator Manchin asked students and community members to do several tests.
The website is www.broadbandwv.wv.gov.
Letters can be emailed to Sen. Minchin at [email protected]
Sen. Manchin said he would take all correspondence and findings to the FCC.