Broadband Council Discusses Barriers to Pursuing Additional Funding Projects
During the May 26th Pocahontas County Broadband Council meeting, it was discussed that opportunities remain to obtain additional funding through grants to bring broadband to areas of the county however, some barriers make this broadband expansion less likely. Mike Holstein mentioned significant barriers faced by any Internet Service Providers who would be selected to provide both the infrastructure for broadband and the service. Those are a lack of labor to install the infrastructure and a lack of and expense of the needed material, and vehicles. A guest at the meeting, Tommy Fuller, who is a retired electrician, added that there is a nationwide shortage of linemen, who would be needed to install the fiber-optic lines for any project here.
The council discussed the status of several projects:
- Amanda Smarr of Region 4, announced that the already approved Appalachian Regional Commission Grant project is moving forward as expected, with the initial field work continuing.
- Smarr also said that it is anticipated that another round of grants will be announced by the federal National Telecommunications Information Agency.
- It was also mentioned that the county’s application for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Reconnect Round 3 Grant has been submitted and is currently being reviewed. That grant, if approved would bring a significant amount of broadband to the county.
The council also discussed the issue of the county retaining at least a small ownership interest in any county-obtained broadband project’s infrastructure. The Broadband Council has been watching the progress of Roane County as that county negotiates these ownership issues. The council may use Roane County as a model if and when it is settled there.
Sarah Riley announced that a select committee will meet with Frontier on June 10th, however none of those organizations represented on the committee will have a quorum of their members on the committee. She said this was done to ensure that the WV Open Meetings Act is not violated at this meeting. The meeting will not be open to the public, which was a condition Frontier insisted on.
The committee consists of the following people: Ruthana Beezley and Amy Truesdale from the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation; Mike Holstine and Cara Rose from the Broadband Council, John Tuggle from the Region 4 Planning and Economic Development Council; Jesse Groseclose from the County Commission and Melissa O’Brien of the Roane County Broadband Enhancement Council. The committee will report back to the Broadband Council about their meeting with Frontier later.
It was decided that the Broadband council would provide broadband progress updates to the Pocahontas County Commission several times a year, with the first of these to be at one of the commission’s June meetings.
Cara Rose and Sam Felton will be working to establish a date to hold a Broadband Council Town Hall, which will be held at the Marlinton Municipal Building and be open to the public and on Zoom. Mike Holstine will coordinate to have Citynet attend this event.
Ryan Krofcheck is continuing to develop a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for the council’s website;
Finally, the council decided to continue to hold their meetings twice-a-month.