Progress on Pole Agreements with First Energy

At the first Broadband Council meeting of 2024, held on January 11th, Brian Tew of Thompson and Litton, Inc (T&L,) told the council that there has been some progress in reaching pole use agreements with First Energy. He said all 39 of the pole agreement proposals have been submitted to that company, and so far they have received back 19 approved proposals, Each proposal consists of 25 actual poles. Tew said they still have not had any response from Frontier Communications about their pole proposals, and that the ARC Broadband Project will need all of the First Energy poles they have requested and also will need approval to string fiber-optic cable on all of the Frontier poles they are seeking approval for in order to move the ARC Project forward. Tew added that as a last resort, he has been talking to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) for the project, CityNet, about the possibility of them setting poles if we don’t obtain the use of all the existing utility poles needed for the project, but CityNet seemed “lukewarm” about that idea.

Region 4’s Amanda Smarr then mentioned a possible obstacle about the pole issue.  She told the council that according to recent conversation she has had with state officials, the state wants all pole attachment agreements to be made between the utility companies and the ISP. However, our present agreements are between the utilities and the County Commission This was done since until the end of construction, the county technically owns the project, and CityNet ownership will not be involved until then. Smarr said that she is not sure if this issue will be mandated by the state, or if it is just their desire.

Smarr said she is also unsure if the state insists on that, whether the agreements we now have would need to be completely redone, or if there would be someway to simply transfer the present agreements from the County Commission to CityNet.

John Tuttle of Region 4 added that he has been made privy to the contents of a letter sent just last week from the Development Office to the Public Service Commission which addresses this issue, but he has not been authorized to disclose anything in the letter at this time.

On another topic, the council brought up the proposed NTIA Broadband grants, but no one at the meeting had any new information about those grants.

Likewise, there were no new data needs presented, however Tuggle said that 18 other counties, are involved in data collection efforts regarding the Connect Humanity Program, however Pocahontas County is not involved with that program. He said that program involves efforts beyond just broadband development. It also includes additional efforts such as teaching elderly people how to use broadband Internet.

Regarding communications, it was pointed out that an earlier decision to write a letter to First Energy warning about potential high costs they might charge for pole use, is no longer needed because that utility is being reasonable with their charges.

Mayor Sam Felton of Marlinton remarked that it has been encouraging to see CityNet vehicles around town. Mike O’Brien of the 911 Center said CityNet is working in town on the center’s new phone system.

It was also mentioned that HughesNet is now offering connections to their new higher-speed satellite named Jupiter, which might offer reasonably priced broadband service to residents of the county until even faster fiber-optic service becomes available. It is a lot faster then the old HughesNet satellite service, and not a whole lot more expensive.

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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