Development Authority Clears Way for Broadband
Thompson and Litton a Blue Ridge Advisory Services Group, addressed the Tyler County Development Authority and other concerned citizens Jan. 17 on Tyler County’s broadband expansion endeavors. A presentation was held as part of the TCDA’s regular meeting at the county courthouse.
Eric Price, of Thompson and Litton, presented a slideshow presentation along with oral comments to update the TCDA of proposed locations, routes and costs associated for completion of the project. Other topics of discussion were timeframes for completion, and partnerships to secure funding to go along with available grants.
Price showed a map of the primary route, along with alternative routes and costs associated with each, listed separately. According to Price, the total costs to get service from Sistersville to Alma or the county line would be near $3 million. This would cover the following routes:
Sistersville to Middlebourne, with a projected cost of $1,138,920.45. This would cover 63,000 feet and 11.99 miles at a total cost per mile of $95,000.
Middlebourne to Centerville/Alma, which would cover 46,300 feet or 8.77 miles. The cost would also be $95,000 per mile or $833,049.24.
From Centerville to the tower (Lateral), would be $226,704.55 or $95,000 per mile for 2.39 miles or 12,600 feet.
From Centerville to the county line, would be 34,000 feet, 6.52 miles at $95,000 per mile for a total of $618,939.39. Total mileage for the route is 29.66 at $95,000 per mile.
The alternative route, which would extend service from the county line to Pennsboro and West Union – through various routes in the county, would be an additional projected cost of $5,704,138.26 – covering a total of 60.04 miles or 317,030 feet at the same $95,000 per mile rate.
The costs shown are for fiber, which Price said is sustainable for 15-20 years. The initial buildout to span the county and attach to five towers would cover the 30 miles and with an interconnect in Sistersville with LUMOS (now SEGRA).
Capital spending for the the project would be for engineer design and permit for the 30 miles at a cost of $108,000. To furnish and bury 30 miles of fiber would cost $2,520,000, and to interconnect with LUMOS with a shelter would be $45,000. Tower equipment for backhaul and distribution would add $10,000, and the contingency fee would be $134,150 for a total capital spending of $2,817,150.
Price mentioned the need for the service. He stated more action is needed to complete the project and less words. His findings have been universal dissatisfaction with Frontier, mainly poor reliability and insufficient speed. He noted success is dependent on signing up at least an 85 percent customer rate.
The focus of the project is solving the un-and under-served residential customers. According to the report, the proposed solution would be to build a backbone route or routes that address the unserved portions of the county. Price believes they must avoid overbuilding the existing fiber routes if possible and interconnect to the “outside world” of existing (or new) fiber to the north and south. They want to interconnect to as many carriers as possible to provide maximum utilities.
Using Klondike tower as a starting point, they want to develop a framework for wireless internet service providers and possible fiber to the home service. Using the Klondike tower they have the potential to expand to other existing towers or construct new towers, and where it’s possible to partner with existing WISPAs to expand reach.
The total addressable market is around $12,000,000 annually and is over 70 percent residential. The total high speed internet market is around $5 million annually. Some of the existing service providers are Frontier, Suddenlink and WV Hotspot, Suddenlink is the service of choice with most customers in the Sistersville and Paden City areas.
The desired outcome for the project is to enhance economic development, improve residential services, emergency services, health care and education services – with residential service improvement as their focus. Workforce readiness is one of the biggest issues for this project. It was estimated the service could be up and running within 18 months.
It was questioned as to how attractive is broadband to customers. One factor might relate to cost. The most attractive plans seems to be one with a monthly recurring price or charge of $40 dollars, and a non-recurring charge for connecting as a new subscriber of $200.
Other projected costs that appear less attractive include $47 monthly and a one-time connection fee of $650. Another plan, with a monthly fee of $111 and a $5,000 tap fee, was ruled out as to unattractive to customers.
In final remarks, Price spoke to those in attendance of the importance of getting started on the project, and time being of the essence. He said April 29 is the deadline for the grant application, so he would like to get a commitment from the TCDA as soon as possible to keep progressing toward the goal. He also said there needs to be a meeting with private investors to secure funds to help with the grants. Another concern was that the TCDA remain in charge of the project, so it will have the final say. Following a short discussion by the TCDA, there was a motion and a second to proceed with the project. The motion passed unanimously.