CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Appalachian Power, along with Wheeling Power, submitted updated information to the Public Service Commission of West Virginia this week on an infrastructure expansion project that will facilitate broadband access in unserved areas of Logan and Mingo counties.
Design, engineering and necessary pole replacements for the project were completed earlier this year, and in July workers began constructing 361 miles of fiber optic cable. The project is on track for completion by December 2023.
“The work we are doing will make broadband access available to more than 13,000 unserved customers in Logan and Mingo counties,” said Chris Beam, Appalachian Power president and chief operating officer. “Installing fiber-optic cable gives us a robust communications platform for grid enhancements that improve service reliability, and also provides an opportunity to lease the excess middle-mile fiber to an internet service provider for broadband.”
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 company’s middle-mile fiber optic infrastructure in phases as construction progresses. The phased-in approach will allow GigaBeam to connect new broadband service customers on a rolling basis throughout the construction process.
The filing includes a proposed $3.6 million increase in the broadband surcharge rate currently in effect, to reflect expected progress toward project completion through next February. If approved, the monthly bill for a residential customer using 1,000 kWh would increase 48 cents beginning March 1, 2023. When construction is complete, fiber lease revenues paid to the company will partially offset the project’s expenses.
Appalachian Power has 1 million customers in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee (as AEP Appalachian Power). It is part of American Electric Power, which is focused on building a smarter energy infrastructure and delivering new technologies and custom energy solutions. AEP’s approximately 16,700 employees operate and maintain the nation’s largest electricity transmission system and more than 224,000 miles of distribution lines to efficiently deliver safe, reliable power to nearly 5.5 million customers in 11 states. AEP is also one of the nation’s largest electricity producers with approximately 31,000 megawatts of diverse generating capacity, including 7,100 megawatts of renewable energy.