Last week’s Pocahontas Broadband Council meeting began with a celebratory announcement from County Commissioner Jesse Groseclose that the county has been awarded the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Power Grant in the full requested amount of $2.5 million.
Mike Holstine added that the $2.5 million award is the largest Power Grant award, and an Internet Service Provider (ISP) needs to be selected. The provider must be willing to pitch in the $1 million matching funds which would provide a total of $3.5 million. Holstine sees no problem since the ISP City Net, which partnered with the Council’s efforts to secure this grant, has already said they are willing to pitch in the matching funds.
Regarding timing, Holstine said construction could possibly begin next year after a consultant designs the project and the required environmental studies are completed.
The selected route is roughly east out of Marlinton along Route 39, then north on both Routes 28 and 92 to Dunmore. You can see the proposed map showing the exact route to be built by this grant as well as a press release about the grant award by visiting the news page on the council’s website pocahontascountybroadband.com/news/
Sara Riley said that Senator Shelley Moore Capito even mentioned the significance of this grant award to Pocahontas County.
Holstine said this is not the only grant application. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Grant application will be applied for whenever it is announced, which could great-ly expand the areas in the county with high-speed Internet.
The American Rescue Plan Act’s (ARPA) West Virginia Broadband Grant will be the next grant to be applied for and should accept applications in early January 2022. That grant, administered by the West Virginia Department of Economic Development, in coordination with the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council and the State Broadband Office, will seek to increase the availability of broadband services to unserved areas of West Virginia ARPA and other funding sources.
Some concerns about the intentions of the Spruce Knob/Seneca Rocks Telephone Company were expressed. That company holds the exclusive rights to provide broadband services in much of the upper part of Pocahontas County, but it is not believed they are planning to add service to those areas. A decision was reached to invite representatives from that company to address the next Broadband Council meeting to learn just what their intentions are to expand service in their areas.
Allen Johnson suggested that council also ask Frontier about their service locations and speeds in the county, however Holstine said Frontier considers that proprietary information and won’t release it.
John Tuggle, of Region 4, said part of the broadband issues in the state are that the Internet hubs in border states which bring broadband service into West Virginia currently have overwhelmed their capacities, but that will be changing in the future.
Riley emphasized that people need to continually take the speed tests and complete the surveys on the council’s website to help convince the state that their maps are incorrectly showing service in areas of the county which do not have adequate service.