Bland County, Va. Joins regional efforts to expand broadband


(TNS) – Bland County, Va., Announced that the county is one of several towns in the Commonwealth of Virginia that are part of a major regional effort to roll out high-speed coverage in a fiber-to-the-top solution. at home in more than 3,372 homes. and businesses that currently do not have county-wide service.

The $ 27,433,186 grant and private investment in Bland County are expected to create “a huge positive impact on various aspects of life and commerce,” county officials said on Dec. 17.

“This project would not have been successful if it had not been for several people working together locally, regionally and across the Commonwealth of Virginia with the ultimate goal of achieving universal broadband coverage. “said Stephen Kelley, Chairman of the Supervisory Board.

This regional project began in November 2020, when Bland and Pulaski counties announced a regional initiative to study the accessibility and capacity of broadband internet. This study was part of a larger project in three counties, which included Montgomery County, correlating with Appalachian Power and private Internet service providers in the deployment of fiber optic and other broadband infrastructure in the unserved and underserved areas of the three localities.

The resident survey was the first step in the study, which ended with significant resident participation, with 1,346 surveys completed: 667 in Bland County and 679 in Pulaski County.

“The degree of resident participation in the study was very important in documenting the need,” said supervisor Randy Johnson.

“About 20 percent of the households (3,356) in Bland County participated in the study that got us started and we are grateful for the wonderful support from the community,” Johnson added.

The Bland County grant was part of a three-county project totaling $ 135,725,363 with a VAT price of $ 68,355,355, leveraged by $ 67,370,008.00 in private and public funding to include direct ARPA funds. The project will potentially serve nearly 20,000 unserved residential, commercial and community units in the three jurisdictions.

“We are all very excited about this announcement; however, we would like to thank everyone for all the hard work and dedication to improving broadband services in our area, ”said Adam Kidd, member of the Oversight Board and the Bland County Wireless Authority.

“This is a joint initiative to improve connectivity in our communities, which will have a lasting positive impact in the future. Said supervisor Karen Hodock. “The Wireless Authority, along with the county administrative staff, the supervisory board, have all been working on this challenge for several years, we appreciate the work that has been done and continues to be done by local, regional, and local authorities. state and federal agencies, as well as corporate partnerships to see this project become a reality We look forward to seeing what positive impacts this development will have in our communities.

The first step in this regional broadband initiative was to study the existing infrastructure and determine the capacity of upload and download speeds available to residents and businesses. The three locations worked with the same consultants, Thompson & Litton / Blue Ridge Advisory Services Group, to analyze current broadband capacity and identify served and unserved areas. Appalachian Power, in conjunction with local Internet service provider GigaBeam Networks, analyzed the data and developed potential network designs.

“The team who worked on the development of this project have been amazing to watch,” said County Administrator Eric Workman.

Several entities worked on the project.

“The collaborative efforts of all stakeholders from the three localities (Bland, Montgomery and Pulaski counties), the District Planning Commissions (Mt. Rogers and the New River Valley), Appalachian Power, GigaBeam Networks and All Broadband Points, Appalachian Regional Commission, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Virginia Industrial Advancement Alliance, and the exceptional support of the General Assembly and the Governor’s Office, as well as many others, to resolve broadband issues our region and rural Virginia as a whole are what make projects like this a reality, ”said Workman. “We are grateful for all of these efforts that have brought us to where we are today, with the goal of once and for all solving the broadband problem in our rural region.

The project includes the installation of fiber optic cables on the power poles of Appalachian Power, with the added benefit of providing a more robust communication platform for the deployment of new electricity meters and distribution automation ( DA) by the company. New smart meters and DA equipment improve service reliability for electricity customers. The space on Appalachian Power’s staging fiber infrastructure is then leased to Internet service providers. Appalachian Power’s broadband pilot projects are made possible by the Network Security and Transformation Act 2018 and the Broadband Pilot Program legislation of 2019.

Appalachian Power is developing a preliminary mid-mile fiber design and has applied for project approval with the Virginia State Corporation Commission, county officials said. The three-county project plans to serve approximately 20,000 unserved broadband customers. This pilot project will require the approval of the Virginia State Corporation Commission.

Once the project receives approval from the Virginia State Corporation Commission, it is expected that six to nine months of engineering will be required and approximately 18 to 24 months of construction.

© 2021 the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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