Local / Politics / Virginia

Broadband project in Nelson County out of money

Broadband1A project that was supposed to bring better internet to the residents of Nelson County is out of funds. The funds were obtained through a Federal grant to provide “middle-mile” construction. The final portion of the construction that will connect to the new internet line costs in excess of $1,000.

These fees may be shocking to some residents and owners, but this is exactly why the existing fiber-optic lines are underused. The construction of the line from the street to the house (regular subdivision) many years ago cost in excess of $16,000. It really is immaterial, since for a lot of people, $1,000 is too much. Welcome to the “digital divide”.

Rural areas have always been underserved, due to the distances involved with a lot fewer customers in a typical rural county. The same situation exists in politics. Rural areas are nearly ignored in favor of anyplace that has a big population. Evidently, votes are worth more in Richmond and Fairfax than they are in Dublin or Madison. So are potential internet users.

NBC29:

Michael Levi, who lives in Nelson County, says he was all for purchasing the new broadband Internet until he learned about the construction fee. He says it’s a fee many people can’t afford, and he believes that defeats the entire purpose of the project.

“The whole idea of supposedly the national government’s plan to get Internet to rural neighborhoods was so everybody could have it,” Levi said.

Fooks says there is a way to cut down on the construction fee. Neighbors can split the cost of a fiber optic line, to be installed from the network backbone to their homes. Then they can each pay the individual price from where the optic line ends to their individual property lines.

Other providers can still jump on board the project but Fooks says it doesn’t matter which provider you pick – there’s no getting around the construction fee.

A video is also at the site of the story, linked above the quote above.

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2 thoughts on “Broadband project in Nelson County out of money

  1. None of these houses would have phone service but for Federal subsidies (the Universal Service Fund), either. Expansion of broadband is a tricky thing. Without the same universal service mandate (and funding mechanisms) we give phone companies re: telephone service, they’re just going to concentrate on serving easy customers (like me, who live in a compact and heavily populated area).

    I don’t know anything about this Nelson County project, but if its success depended upon individual houses coming up with $1k, well . . . ugh. Surely there’s a financing opportunity somewhere in there. Sort of like a home-improvement loan.

    The bigger picture issue is what to do about these areas getting left out of broadband development plans. In smaller towns and cities, municipal broadband (operated much like a municipal water utility) may be the answer. Not sure what the answer is for areas where even that model just isn’t economically viable (rural underpopulated areas). Maybe wireless will improve to the point where it can provide some acceptable level of broadband, but it’ll never be a real replacement for fiber to the home. Then again, it’s not entirely clear to me that everyone needs FTTH. Perhaps we repurpose the Universal Service Fund (something that’s already happening, under the radar) to help finance the construction and operation of WISPs (wireless ISPs) in the most underserved areas and leave it at that? I think the days where everyone had the same service, regardless of price (i.e., the old telephone network) are coming to an end.

  2. This was the stimulus version of middle mile. Cumberland County has had a wireless authority for 6-7 years, a well hidden paper tiger. Perhaps it was done to attract an operator to come and take it over. Only some antenna work that was dual-purpose (rescue squad/fire) was ever done. Also, the county is $50m in debt from other mismanagement and stupidity.

    The money in this evidently was used in getting the first mile laid. Sounds like a really poor communications effort all the way around. I am sure some will pay for the drop, and others will continue to either dial up or pay through the wallet for satellite. (Been there, done that)

    Right now, it seems DSL is regulated like a phone since it is delivered on a phone line. I do know that a couple years ago, a man was trying to stand up his radio frequency wireless in Nelson. It was used on Connie Brennan’s campaign.

    I don’t know what the answer is; I am satisfied that I have DSL now, twice the internet for half the cost. I am concerned about access for everyone that wants it. I just don’t know what to do about it.

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