ARC/Pocahontas Broadband Project “In a Dark Period” Regarding DOH Pole Permits

Brian Tew of the Thompson and Litton Company (T&L,) told the Pocahontas County Broadband Council at their June 13th meeting that the WV Department of Highways (DOH) notified them at 2:30 pm on June 7th that they have temporarily closed down their processing of submitted DOH pole permit applications. He said they had recently submitted a 1,400-page application to DOH to obtain that permit, which is needed before any construction of their broadband project can begin. Tew said that T&L had spent 6 months working to prepare that application.

Now, according to Tew, they will have to redo their application using the new electronic format that DOH is now requiring, however they can’t even resubmit it in the new format until DOH reopens their application acceptance period on July 1st. Because of this delay, Tew said that we are now officially “in a dark period” for the project until the application is resubmitted and eventually approved by DOH.

Mike Holstine said the only silver lining to this is that under this new DOH application system, future approval decisions will be based on standards that are consistent in all DOH districts across the state, which was not previously the case. Holstine added that he still does not understand why DOH is making us wait and resubmit it since the application was already completed.

Tew said they will be ready to resubmit the application in the new electronic format as soon as DOH’s application acceptance portal reopens, however the County Commission still needs to submit a performance bond of 5% of the project’s construction cost to DOH.

He also told the council that the “make ready” pole attachment agreements with First Energy are complete, and CityNet is handling those agreements with Frontier, so other than this new delay from DOH, everything is set to move forward with the county broadband project. When complete, the project will deliver Internet service to the east and north of Marlinton.

Regarding the National Telecommunication and Information Administration’s (NTIA’s) Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program, Holstine said that the state will need to provide financial assistance to small local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in order for them to apply to build BEAD-funded broadband projects in distressed counties. He said this assistance is needed because BEAD requires ISPs to provide a 10% line-of-credit/ performance bond and to put up a 25% local match, making BEAD funded projects unaffordable to most of these small ISPs. He added that there was recently a press release which indicated that there will be some assistance provided, at least for the 10% performance bonds.

Additionally, Holstine said the Spruce Knob/Seneca Rocks Telephone Company is currently in the design phase for their six approved American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funded broadband projects. These include two projects in northern Pocahontas County. Ruthana Beezley volunteered to obtain updates about those projects. She also said that both the Town of Marlinton and the Pocahontas County Commission have said that they have set aside some of their ARPA money to help with broadband project local match funding, and she will also check to see if this is still their intents.

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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