Broadband Service Problems in the Upper End of Pocahontas County Discussed
At the October 14th Pocahontas County Broadband Council meeting, Mike Holstein explained the problems the upper end of Pocahontas County is experiencing in getting high speed broadband service. Holstine said the Spruce Knob/Seneca Rocks Telephone Company received the right to move into a big hunk of the upper end, including parts of Durbin, Bartow, Green Bank, Frank and Dunmore when they were awarded the USDA Rural Service Grant. However, Frontier Communications fought them. The PSC gave Frontier 120 days to work out pole sharing agreements with Spruce Knob/Seneca Rocks regarding the use of Frontier’s existing telephone poles. Frontier did that, taking 120 days for each pole and charging them $4,000.00 to put their lines on each of Frontier’s poles. As a result, Spruce Knob/Seneca Rocks ran out of money and time, but according to Holstein, they still maintain the rights to those awarded areas despite having 200 customers in those areas on back order. This potentially blocks the Broadband Council from receiving any Federal grants to install service in those areas. Holstein said he has spoken to Seneca Rocks/Spruce Knob about allowing the Broadband Council to service those parts of their area that they are unable to actually provide service to, but because of a change in management at the Spruce Knob/Seneca Rocks Telephone Company, he has not received an answer. Holstein said he will speak to the new General Manager about having them release their un-serviced areas in the upper end.
Sarah Riley said she is aware that residents in the upper end are begging for help in getting broadband service.
Alan Johnson asked why Frontier is asking $4000.00 per pole, and Holstein pointed out that Frontier does own the poles and say there are specifications requiring certain distances must be maintained between lines which might require them to move their lines on the poles. He added that the WV Legislature has passed a law to address this issue in the future. Holstein said Frontier plays hardball citing an incident in Nicholas County where Frontier cut down the fiber-optic lines an Internet provided placed on their poles without getting their permission.
Emma Pepper, Director of the WV Community Development Hub addressed the Broadband Council and said they would support groups such as the Pocahontas County Broadband Council who received Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Power Grants. She asked for a volunteer from the Council to address the WV Power Grant Summit by attending on November 17th and offering advice to other groups attempting to obtain ARC Power Grants and to explain how the ARC Power Grant for broadband we received will contribute to West Virginia Economic Development. Cara Rose volunteered to attend the Summit.
Mike Holstein said the WV Broadband Enhancement Council is impressed with the Pocahontas Broadband Council since we were one of only two counties to submit local broadband data to them. He said the WV Enhancement ARPA Grant should be announced as soon as in January, and the NTIA grant in about a month or so.
Greg Murphy asked about whether we should try and push broadband grants into the Southern parts of the county which are reserved for Shentel since Shantel doesn’t seem interested in providing service to areas outside of Hillsboro. He was told we cannot get federal grants to service areas granted by the Federal government to other companies, but we can push into Frontier’s vast un-serviced privately claimed areas, just not into those granted to them by ARDOFF.
Mike Holstein said we should not forget about areas off Route 92 down to the Greenbrier County line.
The next Broadband Council Meeting will be a Zoom Meeting at 1 pm on Thursday October 28, 2021.