At the December 8 Pocahontas County Broadband Council meeting, Cory Nipper, of Thompson and Litton Inc. (T & L), said that the preliminary plans are complete for the construction of broadband service under the awarded Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Broadband Grant. Nipper said the project, which will bring broadband service to parts of the county east and north of Marlinton, including Huntersville, Minnehaha Springs and Dunmore, is a little behind schedule as it is waiting for the Pocahontas County Commission to approve the O&M Agreement with the Internet Service Provider – Citynet – for the project. Brian Tew, also an engineer with T & L, said that they cannot move forward with obtaining pole permits with First Energy until that agreement is finalized. He said once it is finalized, it will take two weeks to submit the permits followed by a 45-day comment period by First Energy.
Approval of that agreement is on the County Commission’s December 20 agenda. Neither Nipper or Tew feel this will delay the projected completion of the construction which will be in the spring of 2024.
The USDA has advised that the county will not be eligible for their Reconnect 3 Broadband Grant because Frontier has now been awarded broadband construction rights to a large portion of Pocahontas County by the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF.) Therefore, the Broadband Council has decided to apply for smaller USDA Community Connect Grants instead.
Mike Holstine and John Tuggle have been meeting with Citynet to identify communities in the county that should be prioritized as part of the Community Connect grant, which are to be limited to $3 million per grant application. The FCC will be accepting Community Connect Grant applications soon. Tuggle said that Citynet will have the final say about what areas will work for them under the Community Connect Grants.
Holstine also told the Council that the FCC has released new broadband maps, and there is a limited amount of time to contest them if they are incorrect. He said people can go to the FCC’s broadband map website and either enter their address or zoom in to their home location on the webpage map and they will learn what Internet provider currently serves their area. Holstine said the maps show the satellite providers for most addresses in addition to fiber providers, but he said those satellite systems were not supposed to count as available providers. Holstine said there is a procedure on the website to contest inaccuracies to the listed providers, and suggested that everyone do this. The website is: https://broadbandmap.fcc.gov/home
The maps on the Council’s webpage www.pocahontas countybroadband.org will soon be updated to remove projects that were not funded, such as the Reconnect Grant, and also the areas on the map that show “future fiber.”
Sarah Riley briefed the council on the ReImagine Appalachia Whitepaper’s “Broadband Whitepaper,” and suggested people view it on ReImagine Appalachia’s webpage: https://reimagineappalachia.org/ap palachias-latest-broadband-report-2/
The council thanked Jesse Groseclose for his support of the Broadband Council during his term as county commissioner, and asked that he remain on the council as a citizen member.