Realizing that internet access is fast-becoming a basic necessity of life, states and localities are taking the lead in initiatives to ensure broadband access to all their residents.

The Progressive States Network reports that in the past few weeks, two states, Washington and West Virginia, have taken steps towards universal broadband. The news from West Virginia:

Thanks to new legislation, HB 4637, proposed by Gov. Joe Manchin, and sponsored by Speaker of the House of Delegates, Richard Thompson, West Virginia is one step closer to meeting its goal of universal high speed Internet by 2010. This legislation will create a Broadband Deployment Fund and a Broadband Deployment Council in order to extend high speed Internet access to unserved areas of West Virginia. The bill has three main components: first, it establishes a state Broadband Development Council; second, it provides for a mapping project; and third, it establishes a deployment plan.

One red flag: the measure allows for the mapping plan to be carried out by a private, third party. Public interest groups like the Center for Public Integrity and Public Knowledge have highlighted the need for mapping data to be collected and held by a public body, to protect broadband customers.