BROADBAND FEASIBILITY PLAN AWAITS APPROVAL By Jim Cooper Editor www.thetimesrecord.net

The committee working toward expanding broadband availability in Calhoun, Clay and Roane counties has taken another step toward achieving that goal.

"Our team has reached an important milestone," Matt Erb, chair of the CCR Broadband Development Committee said.

Erb said Design Nine, a Blacksburg, Va., company hired to conduct a feasibility for the project, had completed its work. His update came during Friday morning's meeting of the Roane County Commission.

Erb said county commissioners in Clay must give the go-ahead to seek more funding based on the Design Nine plan, which was funded through a $125,000 grant. Clay is the lead county for funding because of its status as "distressed."

During a recent meeting, Clay commissioners had trouble with some wording in the plan and asked committee members to resubmit it at their next meeting.

"I don't anticipate anything really stopping us from proceeding," Erb said.

Part of the Design Nine study was a survey mailed to homes and businesses in the area asking about the availability of internet service. its cost and speed.

"I wasn't prepared for exactly how unhappy people are," Erb told commissioners.

CCR vice chair John Norman, also a member of the Roane Economic Development Authority, said funding is available for turning the plan into reality for the local organization.

Norman said future steps would include forming a wider organization that could include nonprofits and county development authorities that could optimize funding sources. Eventually would come requests for proposals to move into the engineering and construction phases.

"The funding is here," Norman said. "We have to get it right at the local level."

Norman said he anticipated the entire project to be completed within five years.

The Roane County Commission set up a broadband commission for the county in August 2017. A few months later. Calhoun, Clay and Roane teamed for an effort with the help of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council that serves Calhoun and Roane and the Regional Intergovernmental Council office in South Charleston that serves multiple counties including Clay.

Each of the county committees appointed three members from their groups to the CCR committee. Thanking the local committee members for their efforts, Commission President Merlin Shamblin said the timetable was to be expected. "Like my daddy used to say, Rome wasn't built in a day," Shamblin said.

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