By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
An important ingredient for successful business and education — broadband Internet access — is reaching 10,000 McDowell County homes and businesses thanks to an effort between Reconnect McDowell and a private telecommunications company.
Shentel Communications, based in Edinburgh, Va., has invested $10 million to extend high-speed broadband Internet access, said Chris Kyle of Shentel. The company operates in both West Virginia and Virginia.
“We’re actually a 110-year-old phone company,” Kyle said. “We have a fiber network that runs all over the state. Our focus is on small communities.”
The company acquired Jet Broadband, a company serving McDowell County, in 2010, Kyle said. Jet Broadband’s system had not been upgraded for years, and Shentel looked at rebuilding it. The rebuilt system’s cable modem has speeds of up to 50 megabits (Mbps).
“We really talk about broadband being a key part in the development of education and business,” Kyle said. “We feel it’s best delivered with cable.”
The new service is now available in many parts of McDowell County. It now extends to communities in the Northfork, Kimball, Welch, Iaeger, Bradshaw, War and Anawalt areas, according to at Shentel company map provided to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
Tony Barlage, director of cable operations and sales for the western region of Shentel Cable Television, said the project’s construction phase is scheduled to be complete by the first quarter of 2014. The company recently upgraded the Internet for Wyoming County schools to 500-megabyte service.
“It’s very interesting to be able to provide that kind of service to schools that really don’t have access,” Barlage said.
The company is now taking orders for service, Kyle said.
Reconnecting McDowell is a public and private partnership with 125 members ranging from large companies to small “mom and pop” businesses, said Bob Brown, project manager for Reconnecting McDowell. The McDowell County school system and the governor’s office is also involved in the revitalization project.
“We came together and formed this partnership to try a holistic approach to issues families and children are facing in McDowell County,” Brown said.
One of the challenges facing the county’s families is the lack of Internet access. With the new broadband access, schools and students will have more tools for education, and parents will have more options for job training, Brown stated.
— Contact Greg Jordan at email@example.com.