Pocahontas Broadband Council to Apply for the Reconnect Broadband Grant
At the January 13th Pocahontas County Broadband Council meeting, it was announced that they would only apply for the Reconnect Round 3 Broadband Grant. At their last meeting they had said they would likely apply for both the Reconnect and the American Rescue Plan state broadband grant (ARPA). At this meeting, both Ruthanna Beezley and Mike Holstine said that the Reconnect Grant offers the most broadband coverage for the county and will be easier for an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to work with. So, the decision was made to apply only for the Reconnect Round 3 Grant.
Sarah Riley announced that Sarah Guyette of the Snowshoe Resort has been forced to resign from the Broadband Council due to scheduling conflicts with her position at Snowshoe. She asked that Ryan Krofcheck, a Digital Marketing Specialist at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, take her place on the Broadband Council. The council voted to make this appointment.
Regarding the Appalachian Regional Commission grant (ARC) which was approved back in September, it was announced that the required environmental studies are progressing, and once that is completed and approved by the state, they will have the “go-ahead” to proceed with construction. Sara Riley said that the only ISP to apply to build that project is City Net, and it will be on the county commission’s agenda for their January 18th meeting to approve City Net as the official ISP for the ARC project.
Sarah Riley also brought up the issue of the county retaining shared ownership with City Net regarding the ARC broadband service. She said they were looking at Roane County as a model of how that can be done. John Tuggle of the Region 4 Planning and Development Council assured Riley that City Net will work this out with them and he will keep the Broadband Council informed about this.
County Commissioner Jesse Groseclose told the council that he has learned from the WV Public Service Commission (PSC) that they now have some oversight authority over broadband, although their website still says they do not have that. He said the WV Legislature gave them some authority over broadband last year, although it needs to be strengthened by the legislature this year. John Tuggle agreed that the legislature needs to provide the PSC with “more teeth” to the authority they gave them over broadband last year.
Sarah Riley said that state Delegate Del Nestor has informed her that legislation regarding technology infrastructure is being considered in the WV House, and Delegate Linville is chairman of the committee that is considering this.
Cara Rose suggested the council develop written talking points to brief the legislature about the Council’s legislative needs and suggestions, and then visit the legislature with that list, once specific legislation is defined.
Council members made several suggestions to be included in this legislative briefing, including:
- The legislature needs to establish a fund pool to help smaller counties meet local matching fund requirements for grants.
- The legislature needs to pass loan guarantees for county and local governments to build broadband infrastructure.
- The need to give the PSC more power over Broadband.
Mike Holstine said we are still waiting to hear anything about our NTIA Grant application, but City Net is helping with the Reconnect Grant application which is due in a few weeks.
Regarding Broadband in the upper end of the county, Holstine said City Net recently met with the Spruce Knob/ Seneca Rocks Telephone Company (SKSRT) but not a lot was worked out since SKSRT is still regrouping, but SKSRT said they probably won’t apply for any state broadband grants. Holstine said the good news is that under the Reconnect Grant, City Net could service any customers in the SKSRT area who are not already serviced by SKSRT.
The meeting ended after a brief discussion about placing easier to understand maps on the council’s website that show existing and proposed broadband service