During the June Pocahontas County Broadband Council meeting, Region 4 Planning and Development Executive Director John Tuggle said that additional funding opportunities to bring broadband to the county are expected to be opening up. Tuggle said that available Internet service providers who could add broadband here are now at maximum capacity, so they are backing off from doing additional projects. As a result, he said future funding opportunities will probably go directly to the private sector.
Melissa O’Brien told the council that the Reconnect Round 4 grant opportunity will open in late fall or early winter.
Mike Holstine talked about two other new funding opportunities which are being presented to the state by the Federal National Telecommunications Information Agency (NTIA.)
He said one is called “Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment” or “BEAD” for short. He said that funding is eligible to go to states, and it could provide the service directly to consumers’ properties.
Holstein said the other is the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program, which was authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed by Congress in 2021. This would provide funding to develop the “middle mile” infrastructure, which brings broadband to an area, but not all the way to the consumer. He said this is for “underserved” areas which are defined as areas with fewer than 25 mbs download and 3 mbs upload speeds. He said there are still a lot of unanswered questions about this funding, such as its ability to reach other unserved areas by crossing through areas that are served by and reserved for other Internet providers.
Holstein said that Ryan Thorn, who is the State Director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has said he will be providing an update on the status of the county’s pending Reconnect Round 3 application to the Broadband Council later this month.
Amanda Smarr, with Region 4, said the approved ARC Power Grant is proceeding toward the start of construction, with fieldwork and environmental issues currently being worked on.
It was announced that the county will be publishing an RFP (Request for Proposals) to select legal counsel to represent the county regarding ownership of broadband infrastructure.
The closed meeting with Frontier was June 10, and a report on that meeting will be forthcoming.
The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section on the council’s website has been updated, with additional questions to be added later.
Cara Rose and Sam Felton said the Pocahontas County Broadband Town Hall will be held either September 15 or 22, depending on the availability of Marlinton Municipal Building. Citynet will attend.