The state will be building a high communications tower in northern Calhoun, with construction expected to be completed in 2011-12, according to OES/911 Director Kathy Wood.

Wood said officials changed their mind about a Cabbage Knob site along Nobe Road, and have now chosen a site near the current 911 tower at Broomstick. The tower will be at least 400 feet high.

One of Calhoun's 911 transmitters will be located on the new tower.

"We had already been looking for sites to construct a new radio tower in northern Calhoun, before this opportunity came along," said Wood, citing communication gaps in that part of the county.

Calhoun officials are looking at erecting at least one additional tower in the Leatherbark-Rocksdale area to improve communications in that area.

State officials say the first West Virginia county will be wired soon with fiber optic cable for a new statewide broadband network, which will require the addition of 12 new towers to the state's 83 existing towers.

West Virginia was awarded $126 million in federal stimulus funds to create a statewide high-speed broadband network for all public schools, libraries, health-care facilities and fire and police departments.

"Certainly this will be a big boost to Calhoun, not only for radio communications but with broadband services," said Wood.

The network will make it possible for a class of West Virginia schoolchildren to teleconference with a class of children in other countries.

It will be possible for rural patients to be examined via teleconference by a physician 90 miles away. Doctors in remote counties will be able to consult specialists in urban areas.

Local police will tap into high-speed forensic information.

State officials say a tight schedule means that the entire state project will be completed in 24 months.

New fiber optic cables could mean additional benefits for rural communities in the future, particularly for new businesses and new residents who want to work from home.

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