Bath and Highland Counties Pursuing State Grant for Broadband Installation
In Highland County, fiberoptic cable installation is underway in the McDowell area. MGW Telephone is doing the work, which is being funded by a state grant received earlier this year. The state awarded MGW more than $1.2 million to improve broadband infrastructure to 1,100 locations. Most of those locations are in Augusta County, but more than 200 are in the McDowell area. Robert Huff is the Strategic Planning Director at MGW Telephone.
“It would be important to note that a major factor in these state programs is eligibility and not every location that we pass is eligible,” says Huff. “Even so much so that we’ve run into some cases where one side of the road is eligible to receive fiber as part of the program and the other side of the road isn’t. So, in some we’ve had to get creative to make sure that we don’t leave anyone behind. It’s kind of a phased approach. There isn’t perfect data out there and the state and federal programs want the applicants to show that there is a need, but at the same time show that the public funding is not going to overbuild infrastructure that’s already there. And in a lot of cases, that’s very difficult to show. We’ve been challenged by providers like Comcast on projects just like this one and at the end we just simply removed some areas that they were already claiming to be served and our project continued on. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to not be eligible. It means you may already have broadband available and may not know it.”
Another state grant application has been submitted. If that funding is received, Huff says what they applied for will fill in the remaining gaps after this current grant project is complete.
“We were selected by Bath and Highland Counties to be their partnering provider on a 2022 state application,” says Huff. “This year that program has $700 million in it. I say it that way because that’s as compared to a program that had a million dollars in 2017, $9 million dollars in 2019, $29 million dollars in 2021 and now we’re up to $700 million. So, a lot more opportunity there for us to get the funding needed to get universal coverage to the entirety of Bath and Highland. So, we went for it and we submitted a project that was almost $11 million dollars and included almost $8 million in state funding. We believe if we are successful with that, that we’ll be able to finally get broadband to the remaining locations in that two-county area.”
Huff hopes to hear about the grant award in early 2022.
“MGW’s been providing services in these areas since 1967,” says Huff. “In order to upgrade and expand, we’ve participated in numerous state and federal programs to help bring broadband funding to our community. To be as reliable as possible we have a large back up battery system, a generator at each of our main offices, so when the power goes out, which it often does, your connection to the outside world does not. When we construct these facilities, it’s primarily done by our own crews made up of employees from the local area, as well as the fiber splicers and fiber installers that come to your home. So, when a problem or question does arise the person that physically put it all together is likely just 30 minutes away or less.”
For more information, visit https://www.mgwnet.com/fiberprojects or call 540-925-2255
To hear part one of this story about installation of fiber in the McDowell area, visit our website www.alleghenymountainradio.org