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TMCNet:  Broadband info sought [The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.]

[December 16, 2013]

Broadband info sought [The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.]

(Dominion Post (Morgantown, WV) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dec. 16--Gail Given regarding the costs and accomplishments of Frontier's portion of the federally funded BTOP -- connecting 1,064 anchor institutions to broadband fiber -- and weren't satisfied with her answers.


Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, said they've been trying and failing to get answers for years, and recommended referring the problem to a higher committee.

Jim Martin, president of Citynet, another broadband provider and longtime opponent CHARLESTON -- Some legislators are frustrated with their inability to get clear information about the rollout of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and want to force the state Office of Technology and Frontier Communications to appear before a committee that can compel testimony.

Members of the Joint Committee on Technology questioned Chief Technology Officer of the BTOP rollout, told members, "We 've already had a Routergate and a Towergate; let's not have a Fibergate." Committee co-chairman Sen. Mike Green, D-Raleigh, said he would bring the matter before the Senate and House leaders.

Given, part of grant implementation team, opened her presentation with some of the positive BTOP accomplishments and said they are now doing an anchor site analysis -- anchors include schools, libraries and prisons -- to see which oversized routers can be downsized.

"I think we're at the beginning stages of what will be an excellent program for the state of West Virginia," she said.

Sen. Dave Sypolt, R-Preston, asked Given what the plan is to build broadband connection out from the anchors. Given's answer amounted to: There is no plan. Providers may seek interconnect agreements with Frontier to use its fiber. Six companies are now attempting that, though she doesn't know who they are and told members she doesn't need to know.

Martin said the average fiber build was 1,000 to 2,000 feet -- too short for any other provider to tap into. The state has 600 to 700 anchor sites with this issue. "At the end of the day, this fiber is not useful." While Frontier is supposed to provide a discount price to connect to its BTOP fiber, all these useless sites mean Frontier has a lockout on competition, barring providers from extending service to rural areas -- where costs are prohibitive without subsidies.

Sen. Bob Williams, D-Taylor, asked Given about costs. She said the plan was to lay 900 miles of fiber at a cost of about $42 million, at an average cost of $47,000 per mile. They needed only 675 miles, but escalated costs ate up $39 million, at an average of $57,000 per mile.

Martin said Frontier's costs were exceptionally high. The average for any provider is $30,000 per mile. He mentioned one site where Frontier strung a line for $8,000. Citynet strung its own line there for $800.

Martin urged legislators to demand a complete audit of the BTOP rollout.

Finally, Guthrie said they have repeatedly asked for detailed maps of the fiber rollout so they can see how to proceed with connecting rural communities. Given said they've provided maps, and Guthrie replied they're too vague and useless. Given said Frontier has the detailed maps, and providers have to talk to Frontier.

That response led to Guthrie's call for the leadership to compel testimon y.

___ (c)2013 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.) Visit The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.) at www.dominionpost.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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