At the July 13 Pocahontas County Broadband Council meeting, Mike Holstine said that it would be a big help for the county to be able to receive broadband funding through the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program, if 100 Pocahontas County residents would go to the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council’s website – broadband.wv.gov – and complete and submit the West Virginia Broadband survey and speed test. He said the deadline for doing this is July 30, 2023.
Annie Stroud, Broadband Program Director of Generation West Virginia, wanted to remind the public that if they don’t have good Internet service at their residence, they can still complete the survey at any of the public libraries in the county.
Holstine also said that, in August, the state’s Broadband Office will publish on the web a draft of their new West Virginia broadband map. This map will be used for future BEAD broadband implementation planning in the state. He added that the goal of the BEAD program is to ensure that every person in the state gets high speed Internet. Holstine said we should ensure that “even if we have to run around RDOF awarded areas to do so.” He explained that for it to be accomplished the council should be prepared to build around the areas of the county which are off limits to other government broadband funding because those areas have been awarded to certain companies by the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF.) Holstine said he is going to speak with Senator Capito, at her invitation, about these unreasonable RDOF area restrictions.
Region 4’s John Tuggle said he feels that ultimately big companies, like Frontier, will use BEAD funding to develop their broadband areas, but that is a good thing since where Frontier has implemented fiber broadband service, it has been received very well – unlike their copper-wired Internet service, which is terrible. Holstine concurred with that. Tuggle said he still has questions about whether other federal government funded broadband projects are allowed to pass through RDOF areas to reach unrestricted build areas.
Brian Tew of T&L said the construction of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) project is still on hold, waiting to reach an agreement on pole permits with Frontier to allow the project to place fiber on Frontier’s poles. He said it would be unfair to say Frontier is stalling on this, since they are just may not be familiar with reaching these agreements with government entities. He said Frontier keeps proposing revisions to the agreement which would be appropriate if dealing with private companies, but which are not appropriate when dealing with government entities.
Sarah Riley said she is attempting to reach someone at ARC to find out if the council can apply for another ARC broadband grant before they complete the current ARC approved project. This is important, since ARC grants might be allowed in RDOF restricted areas of the county. She has also been attempting to speak with Senator Manchin’s office about those RDOF restrictions.
Riley also laid out an action plan for the Broadband Council:
1. Try to encourage 100 county residents to fill out the West Virginia Broadband survey.
2. Try to open communication with the ARC to get questions answered about future grants.
3. Talk to our U.S. Senators about the RDOF area restrictions.
Riley added that she truly believes that sooner or later, they will be able to “break through” the RDOF wall.