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TMCNet:  Potomac State official stresses importance of telecommunications

[December 19, 2012]

Potomac State official stresses importance of telecommunications

Dec 18, 2012 (Cumberland Times-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- KEYSER, W.Va. -- Legislative requests in reference to telecommunications infrastructure and the North/South transportation corridor were made to local legislators during the Mineral County Development Authority meeting Tuesday.

Geoff Chenger, information technology coordinator at Potomac State College, re-quested that a ban on telecommunications co-ops be removed, that someone serves as a champion for telecommunications infrastructure and that telecommunications be redefined as infrastructure.

"We are competing for intelligent, educated people to live here," said Chenger. "In order to have that happen, we have to have things that those people need in order to successful," said Chenger. "If we don't have the highway, the trucks can't deliver goods and services. The 21st-century highway is telecommunications infrastructure. It is high-speed Internet connection." The authority was able to obtain a grant for a study that is being conducted by Design Nine Inc. of Blacksburg, Va., a company that specializes in bringing telecommunications infrastructure into rural areas, according to Chenger. The authority has a five-year plan for telecommunications infrastructure.

"They recommended that we do a fiber-optics network throughout the county," said Chenger. "What we discovered is that the plan was a little bit cost-prohibitive. We have ratcheted that down a bit. Basically, what we want to do is use microwave communication towers to deliver broadband services to businesses and residences throughout the county using fiber optics as a back feed." The fiber optics in Keyser would connect to Cumberland and Romney and would then connect in Ashburn, Va. A four-tower system could be built to serve the entire county for less than $5 million and the project could be ready to go for less than $2 million, said Chenger.

"This has the potential to deliver high-speed communications basically to anyone necessary," said Chenger. "It has the potential to allow competition. If we continue to not act on these kinds of projects, we are going to find we are choking ourselves off economically." Sen. Dave Sypolt noted that there have been numerous advances on the state level to attract businesses.

"One that comes to mind is tax reform," said Sypolt. "There has been a rollback on the corporate income tax for business over a five-year period." Dave Moe, coordinator for the North/South Appalachian Highway Coalition, requested that the legislators write letters of support for the project to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, and asked for a Potomac Highlands representative to be placed on the blue ribbon panel for highways.

"This project is not listed on their possible funding of pro-jects," said Moe. "We need this project to be put on that list." West Virginia and Maryland have submitted a draft environmental impact statement to federal highways and the approval is expected in August, according to Moe.

"They have no money allocated to continue with the final environmental impact statement, which they estimate is at $3 million," said Moe.

Mona Ridder, executive director of the authority, also stressed the importance of Tomblin's support for the project and being put on the list.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

___ (c)2012 the Cumberland Times News (Cumberland, Md.) Visit the Cumberland Times News (Cumberland, Md.) at times-news.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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