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Hagans community comes to Mon Commission with internet request

MORGANTOWN — Hawkins Run Road resident Tamara Cline is afraid she’s about to win a $20 bet.

That was her wager when she learned from a neighbor that Comcast would consider extending high-speed internet into her rural community under the right conditions.

“I bet $20 it wasn’t going to happen,” Cline told the Monongalia County Commission on Wednesday.

Without intervention, it now 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 into 42 homes, which would serve 115 people, including 29 school-age children.

Exactly where these folks live is its own conversation.

Some say it’s Core; others Maidsville. Cline calls it the Hagans Community. But when it comes to internet service, it’s largely off the map.

“Our kids, during COVID, they had to go somewhere and sit in a parking lot to do their school work or get their assignments,” Cline said, explaining she was previously paying a total of $360/month for home and businesses internet via satellite, plus $40 for a phone line as her home gets no cellular coverage. She’s since switched to Starlink, which came with its own frustrations after a two-year wait.

However, in recent months members of the community began negotiating with Comcast to extend service in the area.

The cable/internet provider initially said that if 11 businesses signed two-year contracts and paid $180 deposits, service could be extended on Hagans Road and onto Hawkins Run Road, Merle Yost Road and Shuman Run Road.

After scrambling to hit this benchmark and notifying Comcast, the provider came back and said it would actually need 14 businesses to commit or an additional $12,000.

“While we are happy to put in the legwork to advocate amongst our community members to draw in the required number of customer sign-ups to meet [Comcast’s] needs, we have hit a roadblock that requires more assistance than our community can provide,” Thorne said, adding access to reliable internet is becoming as critical as access to electric and water for many.

“You may be shocked at the number of small businesses that our small, little community can hold, but we are all here ready and waiting for this opportunity to advance with more growth,” she said.

The commission thanked the residents for taking the initiative and said it would consider the request as long it can receive something in writing from Comcast spelling out the details.

“It’s informed citizens like you that are really going to help connect this area and connect this county,” Commissioner Sean Sikora said.

The commission is currently involved in a county-wide broadband push that’s divided the county into 14 individual “rings” or broadband projects. It’s identified a vertical strip across western Monongalia County, called Ring 11, as its initial project. According to a February update, final construction drawings and a bill of needed materials for the Ring 11 project are anticipated in August.

The Hagans Community appears to be in Ring 7, which has been mentioned as potentially being the county’s second broadband infrastructure project.

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