Citynet CEO Jim Martin Briefs Pocahontas Broadband Council

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Citynet CEO Jim Martin Briefs Pocahontas Broadband Council

Written by Tim Walker of Allegheny Mountain Radio

At the August 12th Pocahontas County Broadband Council meeting, Jim Martin, President and CEO of Citynet, a broadband provider in the county, updated the Council on Citynet’s plans for the future expansion of broadband service here.

Martin told the council that Citynet has developed software to handle the increase in their subscribers in the county that they anticipate over the next few years and they will be building a lot of fiber lines in the county.

As part of their information outreach regarding this, they are establishing a website portal which will contain not only information about the areas they now serve, but will show the areas they won in the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) bidding for future expansion in the county.

Martin said that Frontier has tied up Pocahontas County by winning RDOF bids that encompass a large portion of the county, while not being prepared to provide high speed broadband services in their areas for about five years. He said Citynet will be building their assigned areas quickly. Martin questions whether Frontier has the skill to develop all their RDOF areas or just bid for those areas to keep out their competitors.  Martin added that hopes he is wrong about this, and Frontier comes out of their bankruptcy and builds their areas, because Citynet loves competition and wants to see good broadband in Pocahontas County.

Martin said that ARDOF requires two, three and four- year milestones for installations of service that Frontier needs to meet, and if they don’t, they could still lose their assigned RDOF areas.

Martin explained about the new Citynet web portal. It will include maps of the county showing: the areas of the county which are already served by broadband; the companies providing the service in those areas; and the speeds of that service. The maps on the portal will also provide a place where the Broadband Council can add its data collected by its broadband survey. Ultimately the site will allow consumers to locate their address on a county map and by clicking on it, they will be shown if broadband in available there and if so, which company provides it. If someone lives in an area currently served by Citynet -like Snowshoe – they can sign-up for service right on the portal. They also hope to include a way to sign-up even to their competitors services on the site for people who live in a competitor’s assigned RDOF areas, but at a minimum the site will provide the contact information for the company the site user needs to sign-up for service. Martin said the portal’s county map will include every 911 address in the county.

Maps on the portal will also show which companies are assigned which RDOF areas in the county.  One interesting thing the maps show is that because Citynet will also be providing broadband services in Lewisburg, they will run high speed fiber from Elkins straight down U.S. 219 all the way through Pocahontas County. They are allowed to connect their service to customers who live within about one thousand feet on either side of U.S. 219 down the entire length of the U.S. 219 in Pocahontas County, no matter which company is assigned the RDOF area of those customers. That would include most of Hillsboro, Buckeye, Marlinton and Edray. They hope to have their fiber reach from Elkins to Marlinton by early next summer and then to keep on moving south towards Lewisburg.

He cautioned that while you can go onto the web portal at “pocahontas.westvirginia.com”, it is still a beta version under development, so there might be glitches in the addresses and other information, but they are working on perfecting it by at least October.

Additionally, at the meeting, Sarah Riley informed the council that the NTIA broadband grant would be submitted on August 13th and the Appalachian Regional Commission grant has been submitted. They hope to receive approval of that grant by the next council meeting in September. These grants are separate from RDOF funding but, depending on the restrictions in each grant, the grant funds may or may not be allowed to be used to build broadband in areas already assigned to specific companies by RDOF, but there are areas in the county not assigned by RDOF to any company.