Let's Get WV Connected! Broadband in West Virginia

LATEST HAPPENINGS: First Energy’s Solution

(hint: 431 miles of 144 fiber strands)

I feel the need, the need for speed!

Fiber will “light up” West Virginia like the fabled Clark Griswold’s Christmas Vacation scene in National Lampoon’s comedy film.

West Virginia needs a couple of things to make Broadband really work.

First, we need a middle mile: defined as the connectivity between regions, or communities. Ideally, this would be fiber.

Next, we need a last mile: the connection from the middle mile to your home or business.

Finally, an internet service company to provide the service.

Sometimes one company provides both middle mile and last mile. However, in West Virginia, due to the topography (mountainous) and low population density, most Internet Service Providers will not install the rather expensive middle mile necessary to pick up a couple of customers, especially in rural areas. The ISP cite the Return on Investment (RIO) and Customer Acquisition Costs as too prohibitive. We have many friends that say the “Internet” ends just up the road from their house and “XYZ” company won’t service their home or business.

Here’s where a public/private partnership steps in. How about if we build fiber connections with government money, like the roads, railways, and airports, but let private companies lease space on those strands? The ISP no longer has to pay for the middle mile cost and is much more likely to run a short wire to a remote/rural area to pickup a couple of customers. BAM! You have true Broadband service to go with your well water, solar panels and septic system.

This is exactly what several county organizations, the CCRBDC, ROC and now First Energy are working towards.

First Energy has replied the the WVBEC with a Broadband Feasibility Study.

The technical feasibility of such an endeavor is not a barrier. Legal and regulatory considerations, resource constraints, and cost recovery are key challenges to undertake such a project.

Doesn’t it make sense to run fiber on the power poles? The poles are already there; you need power for the computer/TV anyway. Also, excluding off-grid homes, most folks have a utility line with power service. But who pays for the fiber? Who maintains it?

Here’s the First Energy Broadband Feasibility Study:

In a nutshell: FE buys and hangs the fiber, costing $72.08M with annual O&M cost $2.1M, and does a modest cost recovey over time. ISP’s connect to the fiber at various power sub-stations and provide service to nearby homes. FE stays out of the telecommunications business – after all, they’re a power company. However, the fiber goes up and telecom companies can use it for the middle mile to bring service into our unserved/underserved areas.

The counties impacted are: Roane, Calhoun, Gilmer, Braxton, Clay, Nicholas, Webster, Randolph, Barbour and Pocahontas.

The cost of Cost Recovery: your power bill will go up by a few pennies to about $1.00 per month for four years. It’s a small price to pay for rock solid internet, cell phone, and all of the other services available digitally.

Here’s a table of proposed substation locations; do you live near on of these?

Substation Locations

Fiber image courtesy of By Buy_on_turbosquid_optical.jpg: Cable masterderivative work: Srleffler (talk) – Buy_on_turbosquid_optical.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7029445

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