PUTNAM COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – It’s no secret that West Virginia struggles with broadband access. But Putnam County Commissioners decided to move forward with a plan to build the county’s own fiber optic network that would connect with other counties.

“We would own the fiber and then lease them to multiple providers so that our residents would have multiple choices for things like internet service.” said, Putnam County Commission President Ron Foster during Thursday’s meeting.

Right now Putnam County only has one internet service provider that residents can choose from.
And Foster says the county has a lot of rural and undeserved areas.

“They have trouble of people coming out and servicing their accounts. So when you introduce competition then you compete for the business, and you’ll get better response to complaints from the community.” said, Foster.

Foster adds that they will need help from the state to get this project finished. On the first day of the legislative session newly elected Senate President Craig Blair said broadband was his number one goal, saying “Broadband. I need broadband. Fiber broadband throughout this state.”

And if Putnam County receives the state funding: “You’ll have service all the way from Cabell County, through Putnam County, all the way through Kanawha County.. So the whole region then would have good service.” said, Foster.

Winfield Mayor Randy Barrett says the faster they get started on this project, the better. He adds, “We need to be the first in the ground. Because who ever get’s it first is going to get the service. I think they’re on the fast track.. And they need to be.”

Barrett says that it’s especially important because so many people are working from home right now. “Some people will never be going to their offices again. They’ll be working from home for a long time. And that’s a big thing. If you got that stuff, you wont need to be driving to Charleston, Huntington, or out of state you can stay right here at home and do your work.”\

Right now the commission has allotted 1.2 million dollars to start the design work for the fiber optic network. Their plan right now is to have various companies present their ideas, and then the commission will pick the best one.