Commission approves expansion project for broadband infrastructure


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – The West Virginia Public Service Commission has approved a plan for a broadband infrastructure project in Logan and Mingo Counties.

The plan was presented by Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power in January.

The PSC also cleared the reimbursement of the estimated $ 61.3 million investment, which includes the installation of 430 miles of fiber optic cable infrastructure required for broadband access in the unserved areas of Counties Logan and Mingo.

“The global pandemic has increased the urgency of bridging the digital divide where rural residents without broadband access are unable to work, study or access health services from home,” said Chris Beam, President and Chief Appalachian Power Operating Officer. “We are well positioned to help expand broadband access in rural parts of our coverage area and we look forward to being part of the solution to this longstanding problem.”

AEP officials say major service providers are installing the backbone network that provides access to the World Wide Web. “Last mile” providers install the service in households and companies and serve customers directly. In rural areas, deploying the middle mile fiber optic network, such as that being built in Logan and Mingo counties, is often the hardest part of building a broadband fiber network. According to Beam, the fiber expansion has the added benefit of providing a robust communications platform for improving the power grid that improves energy efficiency and service reliability.

Under this project plan, Internet service provider GigaBeam Networks of Bluefield, Virginia will own, install and operate the final mile infrastructure required to provide broadband services to customers in the project area. The company will also have phased access to the Center Mile facilities during construction. The step-by-step approach will allow GigaBeam to coordinate its device installations with the construction of the middle mile and to keep adding new broadband service customers throughout the construction process.

Construction is scheduled to begin within 180 days and be completed approximately 24 months after the project started.

Project costs in the first year will add 15 cents per month to the company’s private customer bills in West Virginia with a consumption of 1,000 kWh / month.

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