Broadband Council to Consider Applying for an Additional Federal Broadband Grant
At the June 23rd Pocahontas County Broadband Council meeting, a motion passed to seek information and the costs that would be required to apply for a new broadband project grant from the United States Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA.)
According to that agency’s webpage, “NTIA is the Executive Branch agency that is principally responsible for advising the President on telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA’s programs and policymaking focus largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users, and ensuring that the Internet remains an engine for continued innovation and economic growth.”
Or, more simply described by Mike Holstein, “the NTIA is to the government what the FCC is to the consumer. NTIA watches government communications issues while the FCC watches consumer issues.”
John Tuggle brought this funding opportunity to the Council’s attention and recommended the Council consider applying for an NTIA project before the August 7th application deadline. He said NTIA projects can range from five million dollars to thirty million dollars in size and while there is no local match requirement, a voluntary 10% match can greatly improve the chances for approval of the application. Holstein said an NTIA project could be used to at least replace that portion of the coverage area which was lost when the Reconnect Grant was denied, and possibly add additional county coverage areas. Tuggle suggested that ten-thousand dollars ($10,000) of the remaining Broadband Study Grant funds could be used for this application
Also, during this Broadband Council Meeting, the members agreed to move their meeting dates and times from the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 11:00 a.m. to the second and fourth Thursday each month at 1:00 p.m.
The Communications Committee members agreed that the county Broadband Council needs to have its own website to both collect data and roll out data and information to the public. It was suggested by Cara Rose that they purchase their own URL name, possibly “Pocahontas Broadband.com” and there were several offers by member organizations to help pay for this.
Amy Truesdale reported on the Greenbrier County Broadband Council’s public event which was held in conjunction with the Lewisburg “First Friday” event on June 4th. She said a major part was defining the need for faster broadband by the medical community, which could facilitate on-line medical appointments. She said Greenbrier County is still collecting internet speed data, but they do not as much of an emergency need for broadband improvement as Pocahontas County because in general their speeds are much higher than here.
Members questioned the practicality of trying to tie a Broadband public event here in with another event, festival or fair because many of the council members are usually tied up putting on those events already. It was instead suggested that flyers about broadband efforts be distributed at other events.
Mystic Miller, the director of the Snowshoe Foundation volunteered to serve as the Volunteer Coordinator for the council, but said she would not have the time to begin until August 7th.
There was a discussion about the various, and differing national broadband speed maps out there. Mike Holstein said they are of limited local value and could even hurt local efforts, but they do show that speed maps by internet providers are incorrect.
Regarding the project engineering firm bids, the committee members are scoring the submitted bids and the top two scoring companies will be recommended to the commissioners who will interview them and make the final selection.
It had been noted at the last meeting that Frontier has been laying Fiber Optic lines along Route 92. Mike Holstein clarified this saying that these lines are not designed to provide local broadband service to residences or businesses, but they are “internal to their network, but not helpful to consumers.”