At the July 27 Pocahontas County Broad- band Council Meeting, Mike Holstine said he recently had a conversation with a representative of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) about their Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program (BEAD.) He was assured that the money, which will be awarded by the BEAD Program, is designed to serve “every last person” in West Virginia with broadband service. He also said he told the NTIA about how much of Pocahontas County has been cut off from receiving federal funding for broadband other than through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) since no other federal money can be used for broadband in those reserved areas.
(Note: Frontier Communications was awarded a large portion of the populated area of the county under the RDOF Program, and they do not seem to be in any rush to provide broadband service to their awarded areas.)
Holstine said he was assured that even though other federal grants, including BEAD, cannot be used to connect customers in RDOF restricted areas, that federal money from BEAD can be used to pass through RDOF restricted areas in order to reach customers in non-restricted areas of the county. Holstine said the Broadband Council should prioritize identifying areas which are just outside of RDOF restricted areas.
Holstine said “that is our path forward.” He added that when RDOF is finally over, they could then use NTIA fiber that passes through those areas to connect to any customers in these restricted areas who were not provided broadband service by their RDOF service provider.
Ruthana Beasley added that the council can expect that there will be some defaults in the providing of RDOF service that will happen over time.
John Tuggle, of Region 4, said the state should have its 5-year BEAD funding plan finished by the middle of August. He said they are still compiling the data they received, but he is actually surprised about how far along the state is with this.
Regarding the ARC Power Grant, Brian Tew, of the Thompson and Litton Company, said that because of delays in reaching pole attachment agreements, we will be “just a touch” behind schedule in the ARC Power Grant project, and he will present the revised schedule at the next Broadband Council meeting.
Tuggle also said that at the recent WV Broadband Summit, there was a lot of talk about the lack of workforce in the state and how that will affect fiber construction. He said they proposed a “Train the Trainer” program to increase the opportunities for workers to become certified fiber technicians.
Amanda Smarr agreed the Summit was very good, and that Pocahontas County was recognized there as being well prepared to handle any new federal grant which may come along.
Regarding communication, Tuggle suggested the council reach out to Spruce Knob/Seneca Rocks (SKSRT) to establish cooperation, since they have recently had a change in leadership and seem to be determined to do better and to expand. Holstine said SKSRT has a lot of service in the Green Bank area, but as of two months ago they had a backlog of 250 potential customers in the county who want broadband service. Tuggle said he understands SKSRT has recently provided service to 100 of those.
Brian Tew said he will update the broadband maps on the council’s webpage to remove the Reconnect Grant routes shown there, since the council did not receive that grant.