BUCKHANNON – The owner of Lynx Internet approached the Upshur County Commission this week to ask commissioners to consider his company for future projects focused on the expansion of broadband internet connectivity in the county.
Joe Hughes, owner of Lynx Internet, a local wireless internet service provider, attended the Thursday, Dec. 2 Upshur County Commission meeting to discuss his business and goal of expanding enhanced broadband internet connectivity in Upshur County’s rural areas.
“We were formerly Raven Rock Networks, and my wife and I purchased [Lynx Internet] back in April, and I noticed when I came on board last July, that there was a major need for rural internet,” Hughes said. “When COVID started getting bad, that’s when it started to be really noticeable because these kids were out of school and needed an internet connection.”
He said some students were forced to travel 45 minutes to an hour to reach an internet hotspot that was fast enough to allow them to complete schoolwork.
“There was major need, and so my wife and I want to see our expansion go out a little bit more in this county and surrounding areas,” Hughes said. “We’re currently in Upshur, Randolph and Barbour counties.”
Hughes described Lynx Internet’s network as functioning in a similar manner to other fixed wireless systems: they use different towers and do not use satellites, he said.
“We don’t worry about inclement weather when it comes to satellites,” Hughes said. “We do a lot of business with local businesses and residential – primarily, residential – but we do a lot of work with the city. We helped Stockert Youth Center because we noticed the need when COVID hit. Every time those kids would come into Stockert, the city’s network would go down, so we were able to isolate that problem and fix that by putting Stockert on the Lynx network, which helps them out.”
He hopes to expand Lynx Internet’s connectivity by possibly building more towers within Upshur County.
“We’re looking to expand our growth here in Upshur County, and we’d like to talk about working together with the county commission for special projects,” Hughes said. “We’d like to put up a tower or two, strategically placed, to help show the Upshur County Commission is looking to better the internet and broadband connectivity here.”
Commissioner Sam Nolte asked if Hughes had spoken to Region VII Planning & Development Council executive director Shane Whitehair in regard to obtaining grant funding to execute that type of project.
“Someone like myself who hasn’t received any of these grant monies in the past, who has basically started from scratch, has a much more uphill battle with receiving those funds,” Hughes said. “If we tackle a project in conjunction with the county, those funds are available first and those projects will get the first bid, so that’s why I’m talking with the county commissioners now because if we can have a project in line, then that funding would come first.”
Nolte asked the Upshur County Commission president Kristie Tenney if she could talk to Upshur County Development Authority officials about potentially collaborating and identifying broadband internet expansion projects.
“From this point going forward, it might be wise to ask Jennifer [Jennifer Bostian, UCDA executive director] and Shane [Shane Whitehair, Region VII Planning & Development Council executive director] yourself to see what is available,” Nolte said. “Some things have to be backed by us when it comes to the federal funds, but we’ll just take that route and see.”