Pocahontas Broadband Council Seeking to Have Frontier at Future Meeting
At the February 22nd Pocahontas County Broadband Council Meeting, Melissa O’Brien of the Roane County Broadband Enhancement Council said she has developed contacts with some of the new management at Frontier Communications, and they are eager to change the bad reputation Frontier has acquired. She said those managers as well as Frontier Engineers are willing to come to a future Pocahontas Broadband Council meeting, but would probably need more than an hour to dialog with the council and respond to questions and concerns.
Sarah Riley responded to this with “yes,yes,yes!” It was suggested that any such meeting might be best as an in-person rather than a virtual meeting.
Melissa O’Brien also suggested that Pocahontas County should consider retaining some level of ownership over any future broadband infrastructure in the county for at least ten years, as Roane County will be doing and being strongly considered by Greenbrier County. John Tuggle agreed, saying that the timeline to use the Roane and Greenbrier ownership models will work well for the Appalachian Regional Commission Grant’s broadband project (or ARC Project.) He suggested the council consider using the same law firm to negotiate the ownership issues as Roane and Greenbrier Counties are using because that firm would already be familiar with those issues.
Regarding the status of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Grant (or NTIA Grant,) these is no new information available, in fact it was described as a “black-hole mystery” as to when application information for that grant might become available.
Regarding the approved ARC Grant, it was reported that the environmental studies are being completed and preliminary field work to examine possible routes and existing poles will be going on for the next several weeks. Plans are also being considered to hold a Town Hall along with Citynet which might be combined with a groundbreaking or ribbon-cutting event to occur later in warmer weather. Cara Rose suggested these events should occur in the Northern, Central and Southern areas of the county, while Sarah Riley suggested that these events be “ARC Kickoff Events” rather than tied to groundbreaking or ribbon cutting. Everyone agreed that because of a public which has grown skeptical of broadband ever coming here, some kind of splashy community event is needed.
Regarding the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund or RDOF, Tuggle said Citynet has been awarded it’s RDOF areas in the county by the FCC, but so far Frontier has not been awarded their areas. Allen Johnson said that it would not be acceptable to have to wait six or seven years for Frontier to get around to building their broadband in their RDOF areas.
Regarding the application for the Reconnect Round 3 Grant, Amanda Smarr said it is due March 8th and will be submitted on time.
Sarah Riley said that not having reliable high-speed internet makes it difficult for businesses to convince new employees to move to the county and to retain existing employees.