NTIA’s BEAD Broadband Grant is Designed to Serve Every West Virginian
At the July 27th Pocahontas County Broadband Council Meeting, Mike Holstine said he recently held a conversation with a representative of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) about their Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program (BEAD.) He was assured that the money which will be awarded by the BEAD Program is designed to serve “every last person” in West Virginia with broadband service. He also said he told the NTIA about how much of Pocahontas County has been cut off from receiving federal funding for broadband other than through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) since no other federal money can be used for broadband in those reserved areas.
(Note: Frontier Communications was awarded a large portion of the populated area of the county under the RDOF Program, and they do not seem to be in any rush to provide broadband service to their awarded areas.)
Holstine said he was assured that even though other federal grants, including BEAD, cannot be used to connect customers in RDOF restricted areas, that federal money from the BEAD project can be used to pass through RDOF restricted areas in order to reach customers in non-restricted areas of the county. Holstine said the Broadband Council should prioritize identifying areas which are just outside of RDOF restricted areas and try to use BEAD money to reach people in those areas by passing through the RDOF restricted areas. Holstine said “that is our path forward.” He added that when RDOF is finally over, we could then use the NTIA fiber that passes through those areas to connect to any customers in these restricted areas who were not provided broadband service by their RDOF service provider.
Ruthana Beasley added that we can expect that there will be some defaults in the providing of RDOF service that will happen over time.
John Tuggle of Region 4 said the state should have its 5-year BEAD funding plan finished by the middle of August. He said they are still compiling the data they received, but he is actually surprised about how far along the state is with this.
Regarding the ARC Power Grant, Brian Tew of the Thompson and Litton Company said that because of delays in reaching pole attachment agreements, we will be “just a touch” behind schedule in the ARC Power Grant project, and he will present the revised schedule at the next Broadband Council meeting.
Tuggle also said that at the recent WV Broadband Summit, there was a lot of talk about the lack of workforce in the state and how that will affect fiber construction. He said they proposed a “Train the Trainer” program to increase the opportunities for workers to become certified fiber technicians.
Amanda Smarr agreed the Summit was very good, and that Pocahontas County was recognized there as being well prepared to handle any new federal grant which may come along.
Regarding communication, Tuggle suggested we reach out to the Spruce Knob/Seneca Rocks communication company (SK/SR) to establish cooperation, since they have recently had a change in leadership and seem to be determined to do better and expand. Holstine said SK/SR does have a lot of service in the Green Bank area, but as of 2 months ago they had a backlog of 250 potential customers in the county who want broadband service. Tuggle said he understands SK/SR has recently provided service to a hundred of those.
Brian Tew said he will update the broadband maps on the Council’s webpage to remove the Reconnect Grant routes shown there, since we did not receive that grant.