In 2014, West Virginia wrote its Broadband Plan, but since then much has changed in the state, in the country, and with technology. Officials from the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council have now released a Request for Information on Actions and Partnerships to Advance Last Mile and Middle Mile Broadband Services in West Virginia (RFI). Responses are due November 4th and early responses are encouraged.
According to the RFI, the state has several reasons for releasing the RFI:
- To update to the West Virginia Broadband Plan, last written in 2014. They seek input from broadband service providers currently in the state, and others who may wish to expand service within the state.
- To identify unserved areas which the private sector is likely to serve in the near future so as to better target its efforts. To identify areas where deployment will require public-private partnerships and potential partners.
- To seek input from companies related to the development of middle mile assets that can support better last mile service in West Virginia. The Council expects to receive access to a limited number of fiber strands along long-haul fiber routes. Because the West Virginia Legislature has encouraged the electric utilities to undertake feasibility studies for constructing and operating middle mile broadband Internet projects, the Council seeks comment from last-mile providers regarding these types of networks.
The Council hopes to receive responses from:
- Last-mile broadband service providers.
- Middle-mile broadband service providers.
- Network operators.
- Infrastructure investors and developers.
Some of the goals that the program hope to fulfill include defining target areas that are unserved and helping local cities and counties in West Virginia obtain gigabit connectivity. The state is working with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on the latter’s mapping initiative. The project is intended to better map Internet access and improve accuracy on a more granular level.
For details on the program goals related to middle mile and last mile projects, review the full RFI here. The Council wants input from outside entities on a number of factors as they update their Broadband Plan and work to expand broadband coverage in the state.
The RFI states that the Council will accept responses on a rolling basis until November 4th 2019, but they encourage early responses.
The RFI also states:
Internet Service Providers who may be interested in working with electric utilities on feasibility studies into middle-mile infrastructure to be completed in 2019 are strongly encouraged to respond with a preliminary expression of interest by October 14, 2019. ISPs who submit a preliminary expression of interest will be contacted to discuss additional information that the Council and the ISP may need to help identify if areas under study by electric utilities are suitable for last-mile projects of interest to the ISP.