Pocahontas Broadband Council and SKSR Telephone Co. in Joint Broadband Effort

Jenna Miller, the CEO of the Spruce Knob/Seneca Rocks Telephone Company (SKSR) addressed the Pocahontas County Broadband Council during their November 9th meeting. Miller said SKSR is applying for the third round of theLine Extension Advancement and Development” (LEAD) grant program, which will expand broadband service to 145 addresses in 3 locations of northern Pocahontas County. Those areas are:

  1. The North Fork Loop
  2. Lower Murphy Road
  3. Powder Horn Lane

Miller said the total amount of money the LEAD grant will pay to provide the broadband service to these 145 addresses is $550,650.00 but the local match is based on $500.00 per address, or $72,500. Miller asked for the Broadband Council’s support when they ask the Pocahontas County Commission to provide those local Match funds at a special commission meeting set for 2:30 pm on Wednesday, November 15th.  Ruthana Beasley said since Broadband Council’s primary mission is to bring broadband service to as many county residents as possible, they will join with SKSR and recommend the commission provide the local match funds. The reason for the rush to secure those local match funds is that the LEAD Grant application is due 2 days later on Friday, November 17th. Commissioner John Rebinski, who is also a Broadband Council Member, said the Commission has already set aside money to help funding broadband grant local matches.

Cory Nipper of the Thompson and Litton Company (T&L) provided an update on the ARC Power Grant Broadband Project. He said all of the requests to use poles have been submitted to First Energy and now that company has to make their poles ready to receive the project’s fiber. He added that agreement has not yet been reached with Frontier to connect to their 38 poles which are needed for the project.

Concerns were expressed that First Energy has delayed other broadband projects across the state by using their “Make Ready” program as an excuse to have the broadband companies spend their grant money to repair or replace First Energy’s older poles that have not been maintained by the company.

Mike Holstine said the WV State Broadband Enhancement Council and the WV PSC have been addressing this issue with First Energy, and hopefully it will be resolved before our project reaches that stage.  Just in case, it was recommended the Council send First Energy, the State Broadband Council and the PSC  letters advising them we are aware that this has been happening in other projects, and ask that not to let it happen with our ARC project.

Nipper sent out a revised timeline for the ARC Broadband Project which you can view with this story on our website, alleghenymountainradio.org. Basically, it says actual construction should start on July 25, 2024 and be complete by January 15, 2025.

Regarding the BEAD Grant, the Broadband Council’s application will be submitted by the closing date, November 20th. It was pointed out that the government’s BEAD document incorrectly said Pocahontas County did not hold any required public meetings. Amanda Smarr said she is correcting this with the BEAD officials.

Commissioner John Rebinski, upset with Frontier’s apparent lack of progress with their building broadband in their Pocahontas County RDOF areas, said that Frontier uses the rural status of counties like Pocahontas County to get federal rural broadband funding, but then they spend it building broadband in more populated (and more profitable for them) counties. Mike Holstein said that Frontier never addressed the County Commission’s letter asking for a progress report on Frontier’s RDOF project in Pocahontas County, and asked for another letter to be sent to them about this.

Holstein also recommended people read the ROC Broadband Study Report on the council’s website because “it is the most seminal report on the state of broadband in West Virginia.” It also predicts that it will take an additional 30 million dollars to adequately cover the entire state with proper broadband.

To see the newest timeline report regarding the ongoing ARC Power Grant Broadband Project, click here 11-9-23 Revised ARC Timeline PDF

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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