Frontier, CWA protest $72M West Virginia middle mile network proposal

Frontier Communications and the CWA (Communications Workers of America) are opposing new legislation to develop a $72 million, 2,500-mile network serving West Virginia, one of the telco's largest states, calling it unnecessary.

State Sen. Chris Walters (R-Putnam) will introduce a bill proposing the middle mile network at a Wednesday legislative meeting.

Kevin Wallick, SVP general manager for Frontier in West Virginia, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail that it is uncertain how many service providers would use the new middle mile network, meaning that taxpayers would have to foot the bill.

"He's saying if you build a network, they will come. I'm questioning who will come," Wallick said, according to the Gazette-Mail.

Wallick said that since it already has a 9,000-mile fiber network of its own Frontier would not need to use the new network to backhaul its data traffic. What's more, West Virginia has six other middle mile networks in operation.

Frontier's CWA representative Elaine Harris said that West Virginia is currently dealing with a $350 million budget deficit and other issues such as cuts to state employees' health insurance premiums.

"The CWA does not support building duplicative broadband networks," said Harris.

However, Walters maintains that the network, which has already attracted one provider, would help drive more competition in West Virginia's broadband market.

Frontier may be one of the largest Internet providers in West Virginia, but the service provider has come under fire for its broadband practices in the state.

It recently agreed to invest at least $150 million over the next three years to increase broadband speeds in West Virginia as part of a settlement to a lawsuit filed in 2014 by the state's attorney general. The lawsuit accused Frontier of promising broadband speeds of up to 6 Mbps but only delivering speeds of 1.5 Mbps or lower.

For more:
- Charleston Gazette-Mail has this article

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