\r\n\r\nGeneration West Virginia (GWV) is pleased to announce their support for Senate Bill 459 as legislation important to better attracting and retaining young talent in the state. The bill would provide for the construction of a statewide, state-owned, fiber optic broadband infrastructure network, making West Virginia more attractive to the next generation of tech-savvy businesses and workers.\r\n\r\n\u201cI want to thank Senator Chris Walters for sponsoring this bill that moves West Virginia forward,\u201d says Natalie Roper, Generation West Virginia executive director. \u201cBroadband access provides the foundation for modern economic development that is so critical to keeping the next generation in West Virginia.\u201d\r\n\r\nUnfortunately, West Virginia lags behind the nation when it comes to access to this important utility. According to new research done by the FCC, nearly 55 percent of the state\u2019s residents lack access to broadband services, which is more than double the national average. In rural areas, this number rises to 74 percent of residents without access to internet.\r\n\r\n\u201cThis bill would give us the fastest and most affordable fiber optic backbone in the United States,\u201d says Senator Walters. \u201cMy generation understands the importance of broadband connectivity, speed, and availability and they\u2019re looking for opportunities to grow businesses in states with this type of access.\u201d\r\n\r\nWest Virginia State University completed a study which showed that the SB 459 proposed open source broadband middle mile, which costs $78 million, would create 4,000 jobs and increase the state GDP to $919 million just one year post-completion.\r\n\r\n\u201cIncreasing broadband access is absolutely critical to West Virginia becoming a top destination for entrepreneurs and Millennials to live and work,\u201d says Alissa Novoselick, co-chair of Generation West Virginia\u2019s Legislative and Policy Committee.\r\n\r\nGeneration West Virginia is coordinating a campaign to pass SB 459 to expand broadband access in West Virginia this legislative session. The bill is currently before the Senate Finance Committee. To sign the petition to pass SB 459 and for more information about how to be involved go to generationwv.org\/take-action.