March 15 – MORGANTOWN – Hawkins Run Road resident Tamara Cline is terrified she is about to win a $20 bet.
That was her bet when she learned from a neighbor that Comcast would consider expanding high-speed Internet to their rural community given the right conditions.
“I bet $20 it wouldn’t happen,” Cline told the Monongalia County Commission Wednesday.
Now, without intervention, it looks like she might be right.
Cline and Hawkins Run Road neighbor Mindy Thorne attended Wednesday’s meeting to ask the commission to provide $12,000 to help bring internet to 42 homes, benefiting 115 people, including 29 School-age children who would serve.
Exactly where these people live is a separate conversation.
Some say it’s Core; other Maidsville. Cline calls it the Hagans community. But when it comes to internet services, it’s largely off the map.
“Our kids had to go somewhere and sit in a parking lot during COVID to do their schoolwork or do their chores,” Cline said, explaining that she previously spent a total of $360 a month on home and business internet Paid for satellite plus $40 for a phone line since their home has no cell service. She has since moved to Starlink, which has come with its own frustrations after a two-year wait.
However, in recent months, members of the community began negotiating with Comcast to expand service in the region.
The cable/Internet provider first said it could expand service to Hagans Road and Hawkins Run Road, Merle Yost Road and Shuman Run Road if 11 companies sign two-year contracts and pay a $180 deposit.
After struggling to meet that benchmark and notifying Comcast, the provider came back and said it would indeed need 14 companies, or an additional $12,000, to commit.
“While we’re happy to put in the legwork of lobbying our community members to attract the required number of customer sign-ups for meetings [Comcast’s ] we’ve hit a hurdle that requires more support than our community can provide,” Thorne said. Access to reliable internet is becoming as important to many as access to electricity and water.
The story goes on
“You may be shocked at the number of small businesses that our small, small community can have, but we are all here ready and waiting for this opportunity to move forward with more growth,” she said.
The commission thanked residents for the initiative and said it would consider the application while it could get something in writing from Comcast setting out the details.
“It’s informed citizens like you who will really help connect this area and this county,” said Commissioner Sean Sikora.
The Commission is currently involved in a nationwide broadband push that divides the county into 14 separate ‘rings’ or broadband projects. The first project identified was a vertical strip in western Monongalia County designated Ring 11. According to a February update, the final construction drawings and a list of materials needed for the Ring 11 project are expected in August.
The Hagans Community appears to be located in Ring 7, which has been mentioned as the district’s potential second broadband infrastructure project.