The Charleston Gazette reported that the West Virginia Broadband Deployment Council (WVBDC) awarded a $713,000 grant for a project to improve broadband Internet service at Snowshoe Mountain resort. The council voted 5-3 to approve the grant to Citynet, Inc., which plans to build a microwave link between Bridgeport and Snowshoe. Citynet will invest more than $800,000 of its own money to complete the project.
Citynet CEO Jim Martin told the Pocahontas County Commission about the project during the March 4 commission meeting. During that meeting, Snowshoe CEO Frank DeBerry said he had requested a service upgrade from Frontier Communications, but Internet service had remained substandard. DeBerry said the resort received more customer complaints about poor Internet and cell phone service than any other issue.
The Pocahontas County government receives about $1.5 million dollars in hotel/motel tax revenue from the resort every year. The overall economic impact of the resort to Pocahontas County is estimated in the tens of millions of dollars. The county commission provided a letter in support of Citynet’s proposal to the WVBDC.
The Gazette reported that Frontier Communications vice-president Dana Waldo, a WVBDC member, voted against the Snowshoe project.
“If I’m excluded because I’m a competitor, I might as well not be on this council, because Frontier serves 95 percent of the state,” Waldo was quoted.
WVBDC councilmember Elaine Harris, a lobbyist for Communications Workers of America, reportedly voted against the project because it seeks to enhance broadband service to a high property value area, while other areas of the state remain unserved.
WVBDC members who voted for the project stressed the importance of Snowshoe Mountain resort to the state’s economy. The Ski Areas Association estimated that the skiing industry provides 5,000 jobs in West Virginia, with an overall annual economic impact of more than $250 million. Over the past several years, Snowshoe Mountain also has expanded warm weather recreation opportunities, such as mountain biking, motorcycle rallies and hosting a GNCC Series motorcycle race.
A project timeline will be published when it becomes available from Citynet.