"The council has a role to play promoting the advantages of broadband," Waldo said. "That is a mission it can take on right now."
The state Legislature established the Broadband Deployment Council and allocated the broadband expansion grant money four years ago. Much has changed since then.
In 2010, West Virginia received $126.3 million in federal stimulus funds to expand broadband and bring high-speed fiber-optic cable to more than 1,000 "community anchor institutions" -- schools, libraries, health centers, county courthouses, 911 centers, state agencies and other public facilities. Frontier is building the fiber network, but the state has pledged to allow other Internet companies to use the network to serve customers.
Companies such as Frontier also now offer satellite Internet service, so technically every household in West Virginia has access to broadband.
"The latest generation of satellite broadband service -- called 'Frontier Broadband' -- currently provides coverage to all unserved areas of West Virginia," Waldo said.
What's more, the federal government has established a broadband expansion program of its own -- called the Connect America Fund.
In July, the Federal Communications Commission announced plans to spend $115 million to subsidize broadband Internet providers that extend services to rural parts of the U.S.
The FCC said the subsidies would prompt broadband companies to serve rural areas that lack customers.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski declared the program "the most significant effort ever undertaken to connect rural America to broadband."
Frontier accepted a $71.9 million subsidy from the FCC to bring broadband to nearly 93,000 new households in 27 states, including in West Virginia, where Frontier is the state's largest Internet provider by far.
Next year, the FCC is expected to expand the Connect America Fund and make $1.8 billion available to bring broadband to the nation's most rural areas.
Within the next several months, Frontier plans to offer broadband Internet to 85 percent of its West Virginia customers -- a percentage that will climb higher with the Connect America Fund subsidies. Frontier has spent more than $250 million and brought broadband to more than 136,000 additional households in West Virginia since 2010, Waldo said.
"The council's mission cannot and should not be the same today as it was four years ago," Waldo said. "We do not have the same environment. The private-sector investment in broadband deployment, including the new satellite-based service, and the emergence of the Connect America Fund have changed the landscape."
At a Broadband Deployment Council meeting last week, Waldo said the grant review committee recommended funding projects in multiple areas where Frontier already offers broadband service. The committee plans to review Frontier's new information about broadband coverage before the Dec. 12 meeting.
Fisher said he expects the council to award the entire $4.1 million next week.
"We need to get these things voted on and approved and processed," Fisher said. "We're going to do the best job we can."
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.