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Commission gives official backing to AEP broadband project

Greta Curry, deputy executive director of the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, and Jon Webster, manager of External Affairs for Appalachian Power, address the Mingo County Commission seeking support of AEP’s middle-mile broadband initiative.  Mingo Messenger photo by Terry L. May

The Mingo County Commission signed a resolution supporting a new project by Appalachian Power Company that could bring broadband services to portions of Mingo and Logan counties that cannot get internet service.

The new middle-mile initiative by APCo (an American Electric Power) will integrate broadband into its microgrid and then lease the broadband service to an internet service provider (ISP). AEP will not be a direct provider itself..

“That has been one of the problems with this project. The question comes up from other service providers about APCo becoming competition with them,” said Jon Webster, APCo‘s manager of External Affairs. “We don’t want to be an internet provider.”

“They need competition,” replied Commissioner Thomas Taylor.

Greta Curry, deputy executive director of the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, was also at Wednesday’s meeting. She asked the commission to sign a resolution of support for the project that would be represented to the Public Service Commission.

“For several years now, AEP has become a very engaged economic development partner in West Virginia and has assisted with business recruitment, consulting and expansion projects,” Curry said. “Another economic development initiative of AEP is to provide broadband to rural areas throughout the company’s service footprint.”

Curry called AEP’s plan to bring internet service to Mingo and Logan counties “unique” and said it is private sector investment such as this that is needed to bring improved services to homes and businesses in underserved served communities.

“The project will assist with improved broadband capabilities to stimulate economic development, improve emergency services communication, increase tele-health services and modernize the electric grid to improve the electric service and reliability and resiliency in the counties,” the resolution signed by the county states.

In addition to signing the resolution, Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith, Mingo County Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Leasha Johnson and Curry were appointed to serve on an advisory committee in regard to the project.

The project has already gotten official support from the Logan County Commission as well, Webster said.

He said service maps drawn up by APCo have the project evenly distributed through both counties.

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