At the first Broadband Council meeting of 2024, Brian Tew, of Thompson and Litton, Inc., told the council that there has been some progress in reaching pole use agreements with First Energy. He said all 39 of the pole agreement proposals have been submitted to that company, and, so far, they have received 19 approved proposals. Each proposal consists of 25 poles. Tew said they still have not had any response from Frontier Communications about their pole proposals, and that the ARC Broadband Project will need all of the First Energy poles they have requested and will also need approval to string fiber-optic cable on all of the Frontier poles they are seeking approval for in order to move the ARC Project forward. Tew added that, as a last resort, he has been talking to Citynet, the Internet Service Provider, for the project, about the possibility of them setting poles if agreements can’t be obtained to use all the existing utility poles needed for the project. Citynet seemed “lukewarm” to the idea.
It was noted that First Energy is being reasonable with their charges for pole use.
Region 4 Project Assistant and GIS Coordinator Amanda Smarr brought up a possible obstacle in the pole issue. She told council that, according to recent conversation she has had with state officials, the state wants all pole attachment agreements to be made between the utility companies and the ISP. However, our present agreements are between the utilities and the county commission. This was done because, until the end of construction, the county technically owns the project, and Citynet ownership will not be involved until then. Smarr said that she is not sure if this issue will be mandated by the state, or if it is just their desire.
Smarr said she is also unsure if the state insists on that, whether the agreements the council now have would need to be completely redone, or if there would be some way to simply transfer the present agreements from the county commission to Citynet.
On another topic, the council brought up the proposed NTIA Broadband grants, but no one at the meeting had any new information about those grants.
Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton remarked that it has been encouraging to see Citynet vehicles around town. 911 Director Mike O’Brien said Citynet is working on the 911 Center’s new phone system.
It was also mentioned that HughesNet is now offering connections to their new higher-speed satellite named Jupiter, which might offer reasonably priced broadband service to residents of the county until even faster fiber-optic service becomes available. It is a lot faster than the old HughesNet satellite service and not much more expensive.