City council hears presentation about municipal fiber network that could serve every city residence and business

BUCKHANNON – At their most recent meeting, Buckhannon City Council learned about a company that could help establish fiber internet throughout Buckhannon as part of a network that would be owned by the city.

Scott Allan with OneFiber attended the Sept. 21 City Council meeting via Zoom to describe OneFiber and pitch their services.

“At OneFiber we look at high speed internet as an essential infrastructure, like electricity or even roads,” Allan said. “We believe Buckhannon can best be served by owning and controlling this infrastructure, allowing qualified internet service providers to compete to provide the customers support and billing. Having a single company control your critical infrastructure generally results in higher prices and poorer service, and we’ve seen that across lots of different things.”

Allan said this network would pay for itself in the long run.

“When we install a fiber network, it is generally going to be 40 years — or for a more remote place, probably be 50 or 60 years — before it gets replaced by the next technology, so it’s a no brainer to get it in as soon as possible from my perspective,” Allan said. “Once [the installation] pays for itself, you can use it as a revenue tool and you could lower the rates, so you would just charge for the maintenance and operation of the service.”

Allan said installing a city-wide fiber network in Buckhannon would cost approximately $5.2 million.

“You would do a municipal bond for $5.2 million and sign a contract with us, and we would build the network,” Allan said. “In three years, everything is built and we can start connecting every home and business in town. From that point forward, you’re looking at under 20 years for it to pay for itself and then all of a sudden every address in town has high speed, fiber internet.”

City recorder Randy Sanders asked if the city would need to build their own administration to operate the system.

“It’s up to you,” Allan replied. “We are experts at this and have decades of experience, so we offer that as a service to you. You can hire people and employ them and we would be fine with that, but it would probably make more sense to just let us do it, because we’re going to be doing this with a number of towns.”

Council told Allan they would review the packet he prepared for them, which covers more of the financial details, and reach out to him in the future. Mayor Robbie Skinner said he is also looking into fiber opportunities at the Upshur County Development Authority, where he serves as the executive director.

“The Upshur County Development Authority is still managing several different grants,” Skinner said. “We were actually involved in a fiber loop in Mercer, Raleigh, Summers, Fayette, Greenbrier, Wyoming and McDowell counties with AEP, which is a for profit company who is working on this and is not going to charge municipalities a lot of money.”

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