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West Virginia Experiences Broadband Woes Due to Costs

January 13, 2014

West Virginia Experiences Broadband Woes Due to Costs

By Miguel Leiva-Gomez
TMCnet Contributor

As the U.S. falls behind other countries in broadband speed, many state-run initiatives are trying to push the envelope to make the development of fiber networks at a fast pace. Today, we're focusing on West Virginia, a state where officials are working together with Frontier Communications on a massive project that hopes to extend fiber internet access to many communities.

Together with a Frontier Communications representative, the state's Chief Technology Officer (Gale Given) and other technology experts working for the state have provided a series of maps and data regarding the “Broadband Technology Opportunities Program” grant to present to a legislative committee of West Virginia. The project, which will extend 675 miles of fiber over the state, did not satisfy lawmakers.

Senator Bob Williams, committee vice chairman, expressed his displeasure with the project, saying, “I still have some unanswered questions about why we were paying $62,000 a mile.”

Usually, fiber installations cost anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000 per mile, depending on what complications arise, and what kind of topography the installer is dealing with. Frontier Communications was given $42 million to assist in the construction of the network. Its competitors, including Citynet, have made accusations against Frontier for using this large sum to get an upper hand on other providers, preventing them from doing the same to expand their own networks.

The grant, totaling $126.3 million, has been given to West Virginia as part of the federal stimulus detailed in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). This grant program's purpose is to promote broadband development within the United States. $4.7 billion was allocated for the entire country.

According to Mark McKenzie, a representative of Frontier, the average cost per mile for a project like this one in particular is between $45,000 and $50,000. Given, the state's CTO, put the estimate at around $57,000 per mile.

No matter what the estimates show, one thing is certain: This project will be especially difficult considering the rocky Appalachian terrain that West Virginia is situated in. Once this factor is considered, we can understand why this project is particularly special compared to those done in, say, southern Florida.

Edited by Ryan Sartor
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