New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | March 20, 2019

Charles City supervisors approve redesigning plan to expedite Internet

By Andre Jones | December 21, 2018 9:36 am

Providing reliable Internet in Charles City has been an ongoing issue since 2014. Just like an Etch-a-Sketch, supervisors are electing to shake up a few things in order to expedite the process to provide the service to citizens by the middle of next year.

At the recommendation of County Administrator Michelle Johnson, county supervisors unanimously approved contracting services to Wide Open Network for a redesign of the network design. Approximately $18,000 will be paid for 240 hours of services to the company to design a plan that will implement a 199-foot tower to provide service to the citizens.

The timeline to provide Internet services to Charles City residents has been a painful one, with Board of Supervisors Chairman Gilbert Smith acknowledging it.

“Citizens are screaming, and they have the right to do that,” Smith commented. “When I attempted to contact them [service provider SCS Broadband], they wouldn’t answer my calls.”

In 2014, Charles City was awarded a $600,000 grant to provide businesses high-speed Internet through fiber cable (that they are currently operating on). In 2015, former planning director Matt Rowe’s presentation indicated that Internet would be available to citizens in 2015.

But 2015 came and went, along with 2016 and 2017, with citizens voicing their displeasure and concerns about not receiving Internet. During a Sept. 6, 2018 town hall, Johnson along with county leaders provided a summary of the issues.

During a meeting with SCS Broadband and former network designer Design 9, talks revealed that the tower constructed inside of Roxbury Industrial Park was too short and had the landfill blocking the signal. At that meeting, SCS Broadband indicated that they were unable to do any work due to the height of the tower.

In order to solve the issue, county leaders approved the construction of a 199-foot tower that will sit on an elevation 40-feet higher than the previous location. According to Johnson, this will resolve the issue of the signal being blocked and discussions with Waste Management provided additional insight that the connection with the other towers will last for a minimum of 35 years. The original tower that was constructed in Roxbury Park will be moved to District 3 as part of Phase II of the implementation of the new system.

Johnson said that an RFP to construct the new tower will go out to bid in January 2019, but she has already begun other processes to expedite completion of the project.

“One of our issues initially was running power to the tower,” the county administrator said. “The location for the new one is closer to Roxbury Industrial Park and we have already contacted Dominion Power to get into the queue.”

While no promises have been made about when citizens will begin to have access to Internet services, Johnson said she hopes it’s by July 2019.