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Monongalia County Fee looking for broadband companions

MORGANTOWN — The Monongalia County Fee on Wednesday issued a request for proposals looking for companions in its effort to get high-speed web into all corners of the county. 

Commissioner Sean Sikora, who’s led the fee’s broadband efforts, defined the RFP represents a change of tack for the county, which employed a crew in Might 2021 and tasked it with producing a complete broadband plan that can function the roadmap to county-wide connectivity. 

A lot of that knowledge is in hand, together with superior engineering for what’s often called “Ring 11,” a largely unserved vertical strip throughout western Monongalia County beforehand recognized as the world of most urgent want.  

However the large inflow of federal Broadband Fairness, Entry and Deployment (BEAD) {dollars} has modified the dynamic. West Virginia will get $1.2 billion of the $42 billion broadband pie, which is the eleventh largest allocation within the nation. 

The county had deliberate to take its superior broadband planning and a big chunk of its American Rescue Plan Act cash and leverage grants that will permit it to construct the wanted infrastructure throughout the county.

Sikora stated it seems as an alternative as if that cash might be distributed on to web service suppliers, or ISPs.   

“From the federal degree and the state degree, they appear to not be considering individuals who have been doing it the precise means, the excellent means. It looks as if they like the shotgun method, so we’ve needed to pivot a bit of bit,” Sikora stated. “So, we stated, ‘Let’s have a course of the place we will present numerous the due diligence and numerous info to those entities and assist them apply for these {dollars}.’” 

However the county has greater than knowledge to supply. It additionally nonetheless has about $8.3 million in ARPA {dollars} earmarked for county connectivity. 

Sikora stated that cash could possibly be used to incentivize ISPs to attach smaller areas that is probably not eligible for state or federal grant assist. 

He stated Comcast and Breezeline have expressed curiosity in working with the county. There may be additionally potential to work with Prodigi out of Preston County.  

“It’s a singular RFP as a result of normally you’ve got a really prescribed consequence that you really want. What we’re asking for is, ‘Be modern and present us what you are able to do for our residents so we make one of the best use of those remaining {dollars}.’” he stated. “I really feel very assured that we’re going to do some actual good within the subsequent three to 4 months in getting tasks awarded to ISPs and have actual connectivity begin.”  

Chris Miller is a associate with Ice Miller Telecommunications Regulation and a part of the county’s broadband crew. 

“So what we’re doing goes to the market and saying, ‘Take this info and inform us how you’ll serve what we imagine our issues are and, by the way in which, inform us what different issues you suppose we’d have and spotlight these for us and inform us the way you’d serve them,’” Miller stated. 

“The work we’ve accomplished thus far is successfully the due diligence for the RFP. With out that work, we wouldn’t be capable of put a accountable request on the road precisely informing of us of what we’re searching for. We wouldn’t actually know what we’re searching for and what our wants are … We now have concrete proof and examples of the place the holes are. We now know who isn’t getting service and who’s. It was all anecdotal as much as that time.”  

Proposals are because of the fee by Dec 6. The fee anticipates proposal choice might be full by Jan. 19.