Commission Gets Update On Broadband Efforts
Marlinton, WV – Michael Todorovich, one of the architects of the $126 million dollar broadband initiative for the state of West Virginia, spoke to the Pocahontas County Commissioners last week to give an update on the project. A 43 year veteran of the National Guard, Todorovich was asked by WV National Guard General Allen Tackett to help put together the grant that would bring broadband to rural areas of the state. He says it was a bit of a rush job.
“They were already so far behind on writing this thing, we ended up spending about six weeks locked inside the emergency services office,” says Todorovich, “some nights until three and four o’clock in the morning. The grant that we wrote that took six weeks should have taken six months to write. That’s not a caveat, that’s just what it took.”
He says the grant was designed to be a middle mile project that would bring infrastructure to the whole state, particularly in the rural areas. One of the first projects they decided to tackle is the connection between the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank and West Virginia University.
“I think there are four legs to that as far as environmental and engineering,” says Todorovich. “Frontier [Communications] has not completed any of those because they were going to try to get them all done at one time. The grant has to be completed by February of 2013, and their completion for that was only three months prior to that date; that’s not enough slip time.”
Todorovich says given possible adverse weather, they’d prefer to have at least six months of leeway. He’s spoken to Frontier about changing their concept to get the first leg engineered so they can start working on it as soon as possible. He says there is an outside chance the grant may be extended because the Japanese tsunami shut down a lot of the fiber optic manufacturing.
The West Virginia Interoperability Radio Project is also receiving funds from this grant. The IRP is a program to improve communications between public safety departments throughout the state. Todorovich believes building new towers for this network might also help bring broadband to locations that were more difficult to reach previously, like Snowshoe.
“One of the visions that I have, Snowshoe doesn’t have real good broadband service,” he says. “Wouldn’t it be neat if we could hang a transmitter and receiver on a tower; hang a device on a building at Snowshoe, and then be able in turn to sell that service as people come in to use those rooms.”
Any kind of new transmitter would also have to meet the Quiet Zone requirements. Finally, he says there are 1062 community anchors such as schools and libraries, also slated to get money from the grant. Some schools, such as Green Bank, already have fiber in place, so they’ll only need new routers that can handle increased volume. He says this may allow them to go back and add other localities that weren’t on the original list.
Mike Holstine, Business Manager of the NRAO, offers more explanation about the local community anchor.
“What Frontier is doing at each of these access points, they are placing what are called ROADM modems,” he says. “They have 44 channels of 40 gigabytes each. But what has been chosen to do, is to do that as a ring, and the ring will leave the NRAO and go south through Marlinton, and all the way down to Lewisburg back to the west and then up to the north; that’s one side of that ring. The other ring goes north through Bartow and Durbin, across Cheat and then back over through Elkins to Clarksburg and that area.”
As for who will provide the last mile of connectivity from the ring to the home, that remains to be determined.