Charles City town hall provides update of Internet services to residents
The ongoing saga known as Internet in Charles City County started in 2014, with each chapter of highs, lows, and hopes along the way, only to be squashed. Hopefully after Monday night’s town hall meeting held by Charles City’s Board of Supervisors, the book can finally come to a satisfying conclusion for many residents in the county.
Charles City leaders hosted a town hall with a limited personal audience and an opportunity for video viewers in an effort to provide an update on Internet service.
The history of providing Internet to the county has been tumultuous to say the least. In 2014, a $600,000 grant was provided to the county to provide high-speed connectivity for businesses located in the Roxbury area of the county. After that project was completed, the goal was to use a connection from those wires to send a signal airborne and have a service connect homes.
But complication after complication came. After an initial target date for Dec. 2015 came and went with SCS Broadband, the service kept falling further behind and behind. Infrastructure, such as the height of broadcasting towers, were inadequate for transmitting signals throughout the county. Frustrations emitted from county leaders, but citizens were more boisterous, asking the question, “When?”
In December 2018, plans to redesign the entire project were made after Design 9 were terminated from the project and Wide Open Network was brought on board to come up with a new way to transmit a signal through the air. Still, citizens were still without Internet services and accessibility.
Finally, in January 2020, the Commonwealth of Virginia stepped in to assist the county. Through the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative grant, the county was awarded $3,966,012 to bring high-speed Internet to the county. Comcast is partnering with the county, providing a matching grant of $1.3 million to complete the process.
In a July 30 press release from Comcast, the company is expected to provide service to 2,300 homes and businesses in the county, which is close to 70 percent of residents. For those who are unable to connect with Comcast, wireless Internet through SCS Broadband will be an option as well.
Charles City County Administrator Michelle Johnson commented at Monday night’s meeting that the Comcast project is already underway. The project, which is already 12 percent complete, will cover 140 miles and is expected to be completed by June 2021. Johnson also said that while the infrastructure would be finished by that date, connectivity to homes would come after testing.
Johnson also added that even with Comcast and SCS Broadband as options, not everybody in the county will have access to the Internet. Restrictions on accessibility include a 300-foot maximum extension for Comcast (unless the client picks up the cost for the additional length), and obstructions for air signals through SCS Broadband.
Expected package pricing was also shown on one of the Powerpoint presentations. Comcast home services range from $74.95 to $299, while businesses will range from $69.95 to $499.95. SCS Broadband packages range from $40-120 and will require an installation fee of $195.
For now, residents will have to continue negotiate limited Internet access, but District 2 representative and board chairman Bill Coada commented that he hopes this service will take the burden off residents, especially during the current climate being experienced with COVID-19 pandemic.