U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito and U.S. Cellular representatives gathered with Morgan County and Paw Paw officials and residents at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday to celebrate the site of a new Paw Paw U.S. Cellular tower.
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito makes the first official cell phone call to U.S. Cellular CEO Ken Meyers onsite at the new U.S. Cellular tower in Paw Paw. It brings the first cellular phone service and high-speed wireless broadband service to the area.
“With this new tower, Paw Paw and nearby communities have access to high-speed Internet that can power our economy and harness the entrepreneurial spirit of many West Virginians,” Capito said.
Capito initiated the search for a wireless carrier forPaw Paw earlier this year. Funding from the Federal Universal Service Fund was secured and U.S. Cellular announced in June that it would bring a tower to the area in 2016. The company was able to move up the timeline before winter set in.
U.S. Cellular President and Chief Executive Officer Ken Meyers said he didn’t know of the need in Paw Paw until he met with Senator Capito in March.
He said their company takes pride in serving smaller rural and unserved communities. Other rural communities still lack access to modern wireless broadband services.
Morgan County officials have pushed for cell service and high-speed internet in the western end of the county for years.
Capito said she’s worked with County Commissioners Brad Close, Bob Ford and Joel Tuttle, former Commissioners Stacy Dugan, Tommy Swaim, Glen Stotler and Brenda Hutchinson, Region 9 Director and former Economic Development Director Bill Clark and Paw Paw Mayor Alton Wolfe for eight years to bring the service to Paw Paw and western Morgan County.
Capito expressed pride in the area now having “state-ofthe art” cellular phone and data service.
She said getting a carrier on the Paw Paw tower was the first victory for her Capito Connect Plan initiative. The senator hopes to bring highspeed broadband Internet access to every home, business and classroom in West Virginia.
The 270-foot tower was privately built in 2012 by Liberty Towers but had sat empty until now, said Morgan County Administrator Jody McClintock. It hadn’t attracted any cellular phone carriers since there weren’t enough people in the area for companies to justify the expense of becoming a carrier.
The service coverage area extends out five to six miles from the tower, depending on the dips in the terrain, said U.S. Cellular Project Manager Mike Pacyna. They have voice service and high-speed 4G LTE for data service.
Director of Sales Nathan Waddell said with the broadband wireless Internet service, people will be able to watch videos, stream and download music on their phones or use GPS apps. From a safety standpoint, people can now call 911 from their cell phones.
“It’s a huge difference,” he said.
Morgan County Commission President Brad Close said the cell phone and high-speed Internet coverage has been long overdue. He said the service will be “a gamechanger” for the Town of Paw Paw.
“It’s critical to be connected,” he said of economic development and bringing work to the area.
Commissioner Bob Ford said it was a “great day for Paw Paw and western Morgan County.” The new tower will provide service for residents and visitors that is desperately needed.
Tens of thousands of tourists come to the area and some end up broken down along the road and needing assistance.
“It’s great for economic development and public safety,” Ford said.
Commissioner Joel Tuttle said he is excited for the residents. A lot of seniors he works with have wanted cell phone service to contact loved ones. Senior Center drivers also had no way to communicate with seniors or the office when they were on the road there.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Stacy Dugan said when she was a Commissioner and had meetings in Paw Paw, she gave people the senior center land line number because there was no way to reach her there by cell phone. The area deserves cell service, she said.
Chief Deputy Wade Shambaugh of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department said the new U.S. Cellular service is a huge benefit for emergency responders and law enforcement. Some things you don’t want to say on the scanner, he noted.
Region 9 Director Bill Clark said he was proud to have the service finally in place. He’d been texting people from his phone while at the site and telling them about it.
Town of Paw Paw executive business manager and Clerk of the Court Tina Lewis said she definitely feels safer now with the new cell phone coverage. The town had none before.
She said cell service offers another means of communication, especially if people are out hunting in the woods. They now have a way to call someone in an emergency.
Longtime Paw Paw resident Carl Cowgill said it will really help people passing through on their cell phones and fire and rescue responders. Cowgill said he could get cell service up in his tree stand but couldn’t get it from the ground.
“We’re connected,” emphasized longtime resident Barbara Norton.