Wireless Communications Comes to Paw Paw with New Cell Tower

BERKELEY SPRINGS - U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito joined representatives of U.S. Cellular and local officials for the official unveiling of voice and wireless broadband service for the first time in Paw Paw.

"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 during the ribbon cutting ceremonies at the new tower at 1545 Paw Paw Road. "Today's announcement is welcome news as we work to bridge the digital divide in West Virginia. Still, too many rural communities lack this fundamental service and I will continue my efforts to improve connectivity and expand broadband access across the Mountain State through partnerships between private, local, state and federal organizations."

Part of the funding for the tower came from the Federal Universal Service Program, which is financed through charges on cell phone contracts.

Speaking later to members of the Region 9 Planning and Development Council during their meeting in Berkeley Springs, Capito said the effort to get wireless communications to Paw Paw had been ongoing for nearly eight years.

"You've got to have broadband to do business, but there was one man there who said it would be good to have cell phone service while hunting," Capito said. "Health care facilities use the service a lot. Wireless availability makes a big difference for public services, like police and emergency services. There was a broad slice of the community at the ribbon cutting."

Local residents were able to sign up for new service at a U.S. Cellular "pop-up" store at the Paw Paw Fire Hall Monday.

Residents also will be able to sign up for service from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 24 and Dec. 10 at the fire hall, and from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Dec. 3 and Dec. 17 at the Paw Paw Senior Center at 783 Winchester St.

While speaking to members of the Region 9 Council, Capito touted Congress' passage of a six-year highway transportation bill.

"This is the first time in six years we've gotten a long-term transportation bill passed," she said. "There's a lot of dysfunction in Congress, but we got this done."

The bill is now in conference committee to iron out the differences in the Senate's and House of Representatives' versions of the bill.

Capito said the terrorist attacks in Paris would probably be the big topic of discussion when Congress reconvenes as well as the refugee crisis in Europe and President Barack Obama's environmental policies' effects on West Virginia's coal and natural gas industries.

John Reisenweber, executive director of the Jefferson County Development Authority, said he wanted to bring to Capito's attention the need for the expansion of natural gas infrastructure in the Eastern Panhandle.

"We're very concerned because attracting manufacturing to the area will come to a screeching halt without natural gas infrastructure development," he said. "There's not money for pipelines like there is for highways. I just want to get it on your radar."

Capito said it is amazing how difficult it is to get natural gas to parts of West Virginia even though some of the most productive natural gas wells are in Marshall County in the Northern Panhandle.

"I've been working to expedite the permitting process to speed up pipeline construction," she said. "I've been working on getting concurrent permitting and not consecutive permitting, and for the regulating agency to let us know about problems up front rather than half way through the project. The problem is the longer it takes, the more expensive the projects."

Capito also stopped by Berkeley Springs High School to congratulate the boys and girls cross country teams for their state championship titles.

By:  John McVey
Source: Martinsburg Journal