Frustrations mount at Charles City town hall as questions about Internet services dodged
What started off as a promising informational session to provide updates about Internet services coming to Charles City once again fell into the usual category of disappointment for both county leaders and citizens.
A town hall organized by Charles City County’s Board of Supervisors with representatives of Comcast as part of a $5.5 million Internet project quickly soured Tuesday night to the dismay of many in attendance both in-person and virtually.
Comcast representatives Evan Johnson and Nathan Daughtery opened the session about how the Internet will provide additional opportunities to county citizens. And while Johnson played the role of hype man, it was Daughtery’s question dodging that frustrated citizens.
Daughtery provided an update that the project was ahead of schedule by 44 percent. While the project is slated with a June completion date, additional testing will be needed to connect approximately 2,350 homes.
After the half-hour introduction, District 2 representative and Chairman Bill Coada took the reigns of the meeting, asking about a service map. The chairman asked when notifications via mail would be sent to residents and which citizens would have access to it.
Daughtery deflected the question, quickly returning to the progress of construction. However, District 3 supervisor Lewis Black III asked additional inquiries, which Comcast representatives could not answer.
The issues with Internet services in the county were evident even at the town hall meeting. Citizens attending virtually struggled to have their calls answered. And even when they were answered, Comcast representatives did not have a forthcoming answer. Questions that were echoed the most were what citizens would have access to Comcast Internet services, when a service map will be provided, costs to use Internet services, and the pricing for additional wiring beyond 300-feet line service, which is the limit that Comcast has placed on access from the roadway.
Daughtery commented that he did not want to make a statement on who would receive the services and the amount that could be charged, but the frustrations of answers being dodged reached a point that not only upset county residents, but supervisors as well.
“This has not been very productive,” said Coada. “At what point do we feel as a county that we can actually have a meeting that will be productive and answer questions for our constituents who we represent?
“Tonight is an embarrassment and I apologize as the chairman of the board of supervisors,” he continued. “I apologize for this meeting tonight because I truly do not feel that much of anything was answered. Starting tomorrow, you can bet all three board members will be looking for answers as to what’s going to happen with Comcast in this county.”
The ongoing saga of providing Internet services continues for Charles City. Originally addressed in 2014, the county was able to receive a $600,000 grant to assist businesses in the Roxbury area of the county. The goal from that project was to use that connection to use an airborne signal to connect and service homes.
But complication after complication came and went. After a target date of Dec. 2015 was set by SCS broadband, frustrations mounted for several years. A redesign in Dec. 2018 of the entire project failed to yield any Internet connections through those services and continues to be an ongoing project.
In January 2020, the county received a grant through Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) for $3,966,012, with Comcast providing the $1.3 million branch. While it is being touted that 70 percent of homes could be connected with Comcast services, no specific locations or routes have been announced for those to receive access to the Internet, frustrating several citizens in the process.
For now, county supervisors have said that they are doing their best to ease the frustrations of citizens who have been patient awaiting high-speed Internet services.
“This meeting was a political failure for us,” Coada said as he wrapped up the meeting. “If I knew it was going to turn out like this and not have any straightforward answers, we would not have had it.”