(05/22/2006)
OPINION/COMMENT by Drew Moody
For the Hur Herald

There's nothing like a "feel good" story. In this case, that's not the entire picture.

The Charleston Gazette article featured in Sunday's edition, Section C, may have left the impression Glenville State College (GSC) intends to pursue adding customers to its broadband network.

If that impression was created, it is not accurate.

Ironically, it's the second Glenville-related story featured recently in that publication which glaringly omits important details involving the subject matter. It makes me suspicious and I wonder if "strings" are being pulled.

The 'Gazette' broadband article was much wider in its scope than one the Hur Herald recently published.

Several elements of the 'Gazette' coverage were, by design or necessity, left out.

One is the tension and effect of perceived or real conflicts with the telecommunications industry.

And the changing mission of the GSC project midstream was completely overlooked. One would hope there was no deliberate effort on anyone's part to re-write history.

Here's where the original GSC plan became mired.

What it intended to do was to take a signal they were buying from Verizon, then sell Glenville citizens a service the phone company could theoretically provide. Therein lies the conflict.

Verizon had apparently told local officials it had no intension of providing broadband service to Glenville for 10 years. One can assume it was only because of GSC's efforts anyone here can access low-cost broadband via the now available Verizon DSL.

I think it's fair to state here, I have Verizon DSL service and I'm quite pleased with it.

In addition, the 'Gazette story blurred the time-frame between the successful testing of the system and the present.

When the system was tested they had virtually the same 30-40 agencies and individuals connected, as now.

You'd think someone would scratch their heads and ask themselves, "If GSC were trying to establish a customer base, couldn't they find additional subscribers over a near 18-month period?"

Among the agencies associated with The Braxton/Gilmer Research Zone is WVNET, which can only provide accounts to government and non-profit customers.

Thus the Research Zone can encourage solutions, provide consulting, and attract business investment, but private businesses will have to make the broadband connections possible.

Nationwide there is no evidence the type of tension GSC faced with the telecommunications giant will end.

Part of the continuing challenge will be resolving that issue.

Another is negotiating at times what may appear to be a political mine field in making sure everyone is satisfied and gets a credit line in the production.

The list is so long now with names, titles, politicians and organizations that future press releases will need an attached addendum to list them all.

Perhaps one of the most significant accomplishments of the GSC effort is the broadband access issue is being discussed locally. And the school has stepped forward with others to search for solutions in this regard.

The group is encouraging telecommunications providers to step in and solve the lack of broadband access in central West Virginia.

A secondary component is encouraging job growth in the area.

Let's hope it's not another 18 months before we hear from them again.

A United State Government Accountability Office (GAO) Telecommunications report released this month indicates local and regional efforts have helped speed up deployment of broadband access.

It also cites several States where programs similar to the Braxton / Gilmer Research Zone exist. The first efforts in the U.S. began about 10 years ago.

Interestingly, the GAO report mentions the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has its own program called "Information Age Appalachia."

The ARC is providing funding for the research zone here, but has also helped connect Kentucky, as well as aiding projects in Ohio and Virginia.

A cursory glance at all the players suggests the possibility of a duplication of effort, but also allowed the birth of yet another agency with "Appalachia" in its name.

In conclusion I'd like to correct my headline for the original article. It should have read "broadband project" or "Canopy System" instead of "Wi-Fi. project" It's a technical point. Both offer high-speed access to the internet.

GSC has an in-house "Wi-Fi" service for the school. The Motorola system that was installed and tested in 2004 is a point-to-point service, requiring a receiver to use.

And finally the paragraph below is copied directly from the CANA Summer Progress Report 2004:

The Glenville Newspaper: A Power Mac Computer was donated to the Newspaper Office. We also provided high speed Internet via Canopy. All the six computers within the Newspaper Office were networked and services like Internet, File Sharing and Printing were enabled. The local newspaper was digitized and put online in order to allow faster access to the latest news within Gilmer County. Features like daily updates, advertising, recent archives, etc were included in the website.

This represents a tragic case of a conflict of interest.

But at any rate, call Verizon if you want low cost, high-speed internet access in Glenville, and live within three miles or so of downtown.

Don't call Glenville State College.

We love you Verizon. Are you listening?

Or did you just report my phone conversation to the National Security Agency (NSA)?

Read: GLENVILLE STATE'S CITY WIRELESS BROADBAND PROJECT SCUTTLED - Reinvented, Seeking Funds (5/17/2006 News)

You may contact Drew Moody at drewmoody@verizon.net


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