|By Bob Weaver|
Gird your loins, we're not far away from a real communications problem.
Several 911/Office of Emergency Services directors have sounded the alarm in several West Virginia counties.
Just what will happen to phone line communications when Frontier Communications declares bankruptcy is unknown, but in the rural areas of West Virginia it could be a traumatic disconnect to reach vital health and safety services.
While the Herald has been doing stories mostly about the lack of real broadband in WV for well over 20 years, the concern now is the foreboding lack of the basic services, under the control of the West Virginia Public Service Commission, Frontier mostly a monopoly.
Five years ago Frontier's stock price hit $125 share.
Their stock price today is $0.69 a share and the NY exchange de-lists stock at $1.00 share.
The only preventive move they can make is do a reverse split- one new share for 15 old ones, otherwise they will be traded "Over The Counter" as a penny stock.
When Frontier decided to buy Verizon's copper wire systems around the USA, with rapidly changing technology, the hand writing was likely on the wall.
The technology has surpassed the ability to invest money in old systems, and rural areas are ignored because of the lack of customers for cell phones/digital devices.
It could be possible that some investor group will buy Frontier at auction (cheap), double land-line rates to try to earn a buck before the rest of copper is abandoned.
Meanwhile, cell phone service is sketchy in rural Calhoun, little improvement for 25 years, the same being true in most rural WV counties.
There have been a few successes over functional problems with Frontier landline in Calhoun. The Calhoun Commission, a few years back, filed a complaint with the West Virginia PSC over five years of intermittent service in the Five Forks-Big Springs area, and following hearings, Frontier replaced outdated sub-stations.
This year, fascinatingly, Frontier has quit publishing a phone book with household listings.
Residents should think about their future of communications, particularly those still reliant on wire, and that is most.
Satellite systems, through expensive, are part of the answer, or if cell phone outfits could expand, likely with government subsidy to low-populated rural areas.