Pocahontas County Broadband Council Representatives Met with Frontier
At the July 14th Pocahontas County Broadband Council meeting, Ruthanna Beezley updated the Council on a meeting held on June 9th between a select group of representatives from the Council and two representatives of Frontier Communications, one of whom was Conrad Lucas, who is a lobbyist for Frontier. The Frontier representatives assured them that Frontier has now successfully completed its bankruptcy and has restructured itself with new management and even a new logo, saying that this is now a “new Frontier.”
As far as Frontier’s timeline to provide broadband to the large areas of Pocahontas County that they bid on and won from the FCC as part of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF,) the Frontier Representatives said they plan to begin construction in 2025 and hope to complete their project in 2027. They said that when completed, customers will pay about $60.00 per month and will receive 1 GB per second service. They also provided what they say is a reliable contact at Frontier for complaints about their service. The Council said it will use its website to inform the public how to reach out to Frontier when they are experiencing problems with their Internet service, and will provide the contact Frontier provided at that meeting to funnel unresolved issues to. However as of July 19th, we have been unable to locate that information on the Broadband Council’s website, which is: www.pocahontascountybroadband.com.
The Broadband Council members at the meeting told Frontier that their timeline for providing RDOF broadband service in the county is unacceptably too long. They also updated Frontier on the Council’s plans to expand broadband across the county through other grants and programs. The informed Frontier that distrust of their company is widespread among the citizens of Pocahontas County, but they hope to maintain a working relationship with Frontier. Ruthanna Beezley, who attended that Zoom meeting, said that in the end, Frontier learned as much from us as we did from them at the meeting. John Golden reminded everyone who has Frontier copper internet connections to keep complaining to Frontier about that.
Other matters were also discussed at the July 14th council meeting.
Melissa O’Brien and Cory Nipper from Thompson and Litton, the Engineering-Architecture firm working with the Broadband Council, announced that they are working with the Internet Service Provider (ISP) City Net and hope to be able to begin construction of the ARC Broadband Project this fall. They are also working with city Net’s attorneys to attempt to have the county retain ownership of at least a few of the fiber optic lines installed as part to that project, and hope to know more about that in a couple of weeks.
Amanda Smarr added that they received three bids from law firms in response to the county’s request for proposals (RFP), and they will turn those bids over to the County commission for consideration. Commissioner Jesse Groseclose said he would recommend the commission allow the Broadband council to appoint a three-person committee to interview those firms and make a recommendation to the commission.
Regarding the county’s submitted application for the NTIA broadband grant, Mike Holstein said that Mingo County was awarded a 13-million-dollar NTIA, and Amanda Smarr of Region 4 believes this may mean that our application was not accepted, but we still have not been told that by the National Telecommunications Agency (NTIA.) Smarr said there is another round for that grant which needs to be applied for in September.
There is also another pending grant application by the council – the third round of the USDA’s Reconnect Grant. Mike Holstein said he has been in touch with Senator Mansion’s Office, urging them to help speed up any approval of that grant before the RDOF areas are officially granted to Frontier, which might prevent the county from using Reconnect Grant money in those Frontier areas. Holstein said Ryan Thorne, the local USDA representative has little influence over the awarding of that grant, since the USDA administration in Washington is making all those decisions. He said there will be a third round of that grant announced soon.
Mike Holstein also said the council has sent a letter of support for the Wireless Internet program, known as the WIN Program, in which U.S. Cellular is proposing placing three towers in the Watoga/Droop area to provide both cellular service and wireless internet service to Watoga State Park and surrounding areas, which include the Beaver Creek and Droop areas.
Everyone was also reminded that the Pocahontas County Broadband Summit is scheduled to happen on September 15th, at the Marlinton Municipal Building, and everyone is invited to attend this open house either in person or via Zoom Meeting.