Bringing better broadband to Pocahontas County
Mike Holstine, Business Manager at the Green Bank Observatory is passionate about bringing better broadband access to all residents of Pocahontas County. It’s a project he’s been working on since around 2013 when the GBO was host to a couple of statewide broadband summits.
“And at that time we were getting promises about better broadband service in the county and to some extent it happened and to some extent it didn’t,” said Holstine. “With our leading provider, I’d say the service has gotten worse.”
The leading provider of this service in Pocahontas is Frontier Communications. Holstine said one positive outcome of the summits was to get other providers in the county. Spruce Knob Seneca Rocks Telephone offers fiber to the home services in the northern part of the county, while CityNet provides fiber connections in the Snowshoe Mountain Resort area. Shentel Communications also provides some services in Marlinton.
The latest attempt to improve service in Pocahontas comes via the USDA’s ReConnect program that will provide funding to build the infrastructure necessary to expand and improve the level of service available to rural communities.
“One of the key service entities for that are farms,” said Holstine. “Pocahontas County has a lot of farmland so we are trying to apply for a grant through this application process and get a fiber project funded for Pocahontas County.”
For this application a farm is defined as any establishment from which $1000.00 or more of agricultural products were sold or would normally be sold during the year. Rural businesses are also part of the application process, something that has a lot of potential for growth in the county. Holstine has created an extended service map for this project and hopes to be able to extend service to residents outside of the current coverage area. If the grant is approved, he said they will work with CityNet to build the extended network.
“And we have developed a survey that we’re asking people to take a look at and fill out,” he said. “It’s actually quite simple – name, address, if you have an email address we’d like you to put that on there, but then we want you to take a little speed test and we give you the website to go to; and simply write down the date, what your download speed was, what the upload speed was. And then on this speed test site they will give you an ID number of that test and just write down that number. And that helps us pinpoint the areas from which these speed tests occur.”
The speed test is free and can be found at speedtest.net. Holstine said ideally they would have a completed survey from every household in the county regardless of whether they have internet service or not. And because of the government shutdown, this USDA project was delayed in being rolled out, so they’re now making up for lost time. These surveys must be completed and returned by June 18th.
“I’ve got a few volunteers who are going to try to go house to house and I’m going to try to go house to house too,” said Holstine. “If you’re hearing this story and somebody strange comes up in your driveway well that’s probably what this is about. It’s a quick one page survey.”
Surveys will also be available at the county libraries. The survey must be completed by Tuesday, June 18th, 2019 and can be submitted via:
US Mail – Citynet ReConnect Grant, 100 Citynet Drive, Bridgeport, WV 26330
Drop it off at the Green Bank Observatory in Green Bank, WV
Submit online at www.citynet.net/reconnect