CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Appalachian Power, along with Wheeling Power, today submitted an application to the Public Service Commission of West Virginia (PSC) for approval of a broadband infrastructure expansion project that will facilitate broadband access in unserved areas of Logan and Mingo counties.
The company is requesting approval of the project plan and cost recovery for the estimated $61.3 million investment, which includes installing 430 miles of middle-mile fiber optic cable infrastructure needed to expand high-speed broadband access.
“With utility poles already in place near homes and businesses, even in the most rugged and mountainous areas, we are well-positioned to help expand broadband access in rural parts of our service area,” said Chris Beam, Appalachian Power president and chief operating officer. “The expansion of fiber also provides a robust communications platform for electric grid enhancements that improve energy efficiency and service reliability.”
West Virginia lawmakers passed legislation in 2019 allowing electric utilities to submit broadband feasibility studies, and later that year the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council unanimously approved Appalachian Power’s feasibility study for the Logan and Mingo project. Further legislation passed in 2020 specifying the PSC’s role in approving plans and associated cost recovery of middle-mile broadband projects submitted by electric public utilities in the state.
The project plan calls for internet service provider GigaBeam Networks of Bluefield, Va., to own, install and operate the last-mile infrastructure needed to deliver broadband services to customers in the project area. GigaBeam will have access to the middle-mile facilities in phases as construction progresses. The phased-in approach will allow GigaBeam to coordinate its equipment installations with middle-mile construction and connect new broadband service customers on a rolling basis throughout the construction process.
If approved by the Commission, the first year project costs will add 15 cents a month to the bill of the companies’ West Virginia residential customers using 1,000 kWh/month. Project construction is expected to begin within 180 days after Commission approval, and be complete approximately 24 months after the start of construction.