Telecom sponsors flock to Rockefeller's broadband event

Silver level sponsorships cost $2,500, while gold level sponsorships cost a cool $5,000, according to the Discover the Real West Virginia Foundation, a non-profit that organized the event.

Larry Strickling of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency within the Commerce Department, gave the keynote speech. Several broadband advocates made the six-hour drive from Washington to attend the event, largely to show support for Rockefeller's agenda. He has been pushing telecommunications providers to expand broadband service in to rural areas-especially into West Virginia, which is among the five states with the lowest broadband penetration in the nation, according to a Federal Communications Commission report.

West Virginia organizations applied for about $216 million on broadband stimulus funds, according to the NTIA.

Frontier Communications plans to purchase Verizon's wireline networks in 14 states, including West Virginia. Some groups have voiced concern that Frontier may not have the capacity and resources to expand high-speed Internet service throughout the state. Rockefeller has repeatedly passed resolutions in Congress to deploy universal broadband networks by 2015.