The number of West Virginia homes with high-speed or broadband Internet service lags behind the rest of the nation.

According to a new study, the total rose by more than 50 percent between December 2003 and December 2004 to 155,000 in the Mountain State.

Marshall University's Center for Business and Economic Research conducted the study for the West Virginia Development Office.

The study predicted the number of West Virginia households with broadband will continue to rise, the state is a year behind the rest of the US.

That prediction seems optimistic.

About half the households in the Mountain State have some form of Internet access.

The national rate is 66 percent.

About 42 percent of West Virginia households with Internet services have broadband, most of the users residing close to more urban areas.

The study is based on a survey of 600 households.

It recommends the state push to educate consumers about broadband availability, but in many rural counties it is not readily available.

Eighteen months ago in Clay County the school system hired a contractor to install a new wireless Internet system that would connect all the county schools together with high speed wireless.

The system was to bring service to the greater Clay area by last summer.

The company went bankrupt and is now operating under a new name. Taxpayer dollars supported WiMax to do the broad-band project in rural Clay.

Clay schools still do not have high speed Internet service, unable to utilize distance learning programs.

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