BUCKHANNON — On Thursday, February 3, 2022, representatives Kevin Mullins and Charles Thompson from Secure Net provided Upshur County Commission with a proposal to bring high-speed internet coverage to the entire county. Mullins and Thompson spoke of the plans, costs and benefits this would give the county.
The presenters provided a mock budget of the plan, which would cost an estimated $30 million. The plan would utilize underground fiber, which is more expensive, but also more reliable than aerial lines, according to Mullins. He stated, “The biggest obstacle will be distance and terrain.” This is because much of Upshur County is in rural area.
Commissioners Samuel Nolte, Kristie Tenney, and Terry Cutright agreed that the addition of high-speed internet to the entire county would be beneficial, but the cost is quite expensive.
“I know $30 million is a lot of money and that is why the project could be performed in phases and those phases of which areas you would want to cover first would be up to you. There are also grants available with about $1.3 billion available within the state of West Virginia,” Mullins explained. Mullins continued to note that once the plan was completed, the county would own the infrastructure and be able to bring in additional internet service providers if they wanted to.
Mullins also explained that the county would be responsible for repairs and maintenance and the plan includes a revenue sharing program that would be split between Secure Net and Upshur County. Among these initial plans, Mullins included average cost to the consumer would be $40 a month for a minimal data plan and $80 for those who would want additional gigabytes, using more data.
Commissioners also asked if the existing fiber lines along Route 33 would be used. Mullins noted that all new lines would be ran with a central distribution point located in Upshur County. He said, “This would allow us to create a point-to-point from existing provider.” The two main providers are currently Suddenlink and Frontier.
After discussion, the decision was made for Secure Net to contact the Upshur County Development Authority (UCDA). This is because the County Commission is unable to receive the revenue generated but it could potentially be split with the UCDA. Jennifer Bostian, Executive Director of UCDA, was contacted received the information. At this time the prospective authorities have all the information but have not yet to made a decision.
In addition to this proposal, other approved items on the agenda included: Correspondence to Governor Jim Justice requesting allocation of remaining State CARES Act Funds towards emergency medical services; Funding request to the Animal Outreach Project which was approved in the amount of $1,500 dollars with stipulation to only be used for Upshur and Lewis County animals; Correspondence from John Roby, President of the Upshur County Firefighters Association to appoint Brian Elmore as Fire Associated representative on the Upshur County Fire Board effective immediately. Mr. Elmore’s term will expire June 30, 2023; Consideration and approval of advertisement for a full-time Deputy County Clerk. Applications are due no later than close of business Friday, February 18, 2022; and Approval of Application of Donated Leave.