ABC News Takes Interest in Rural Broadband in Pocahontas County
During the June 9th Pocahontas County Broadband Council meeting, Sarah Riley announced that she has been contacted by ABC News about a possible interview and story about the efforts to get rural broadband here in Pocahontas County. The story would be a part of a rural broadband ABC News Special report. Riley said the reporter might be here in late June to do the story.
In addition, Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton told the Council that he was contacted by a Baltimore based company who has been here investigating the local broadband situation.
In an ironic twist, Sarah Riley was forced several times to turn over her chairing of the meeting to Ruthana Beezley because her broadband connection to the zoom meeting failed.
Sam Felton reported that the Engineering Bid Review Committee needs more time to score the companies who submitted bids to the County Commission to serve as the engineering company for the county’s application for the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Power Grant.
Sarah Riley brought to the Council’s attention concerns that Broadband Council meetings might possibly be subject to the state’s “sunshine law” -referring to the West Virginia Open Meetings Act. If so, she said, the Council would need to publicize their meeting agendas in advance of the actual meeting. She said this is still being researched.
A discussion was held about the collection of broadband speed data from areas across the county. Mike O’Brien suggested the Lion’s Club be contacted to help obtain this data, as well as efforts be made to collect more of this data at fairs and festivals in the county.
Jim Martin from City Net has approached the Broadband Council, offering new software tools City Net has developed to streamline collection of speed data from different areas. Martin wants to present these at a future Broadband Council meeting. O’Brien described this software as being a “really neat system.”
Amanda Smarr from the Region 4 Planning and Development Council said survey data needs to be cleaned up so it can also be collected using social media platforms. She also asked that the reference to the already finished kayak raffle be removed from the survey and that the Council needs to simplify the link to the survey.
Keli Radcliff offered to create a simple website for the survey.
Sarah Riley asked Ruth Bland from the Board of Education if she can provide the Council with the board’s survey data listing the students’ internet speeds, and Bland said she may be able to provide numbers and ages from their survey.
Mike O’Brien suggested that the Council reach out to Frontier to try and obtain their data on their actual broadband speeds in different areas of the county. Others expressed doubts Frontier would cooperate, but agreed it is worth the effort to try. Riley suggested also reaching out to City Net and to the Spruce Knob – Seneca Rocks Telephone for their speed data.
O’Brien said that Frontier has been busy installing some Fiber lines in the Northern end of the county, and John Tuggle, said the Region 4 Planning and Development Council have been receiving a lot of pressure to give Frontier another year to improve their broadband service, but O’Brien said the best Frontier could possibly do is provide 18 mb service. O’Brien was appointed to make contact with Frontier.
Mike Holstein has sent a letter to the County Commission and the three municipalities in the county asking them to reserve 30% of eligible COVID relief money for broadband expansion. Sam Felton said the Marlinton City Council has already agreed to reserve 25% for broadband.
It was suggested that at a future meeting, a model be discussed whereby the County Commission would borrow money and work directly with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) outside of state or federal grants or programs to bring broadband to the entire county.