New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | September 18, 2021

Riverstreet Networks pledges progress to bring wireless internet to Charles City County

By Andre Jones | August 25, 2021 3:08 am

Even with the recent addition of internet provided by Comcast through a Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) grant, many citizens of Charles City County fall outside the 300-foot connection border for the service. And while many constituents remain frustrated about the issue, another method of connecting citizens to the world wide web reemerged at Charles City’s Board of Supervisors’ Tuesday night meeting.

Greg Coltrain and Stephen Morris of Riverstreet Networks provided a wireless update infrastructure to county leaders.

As early as 2014, SCS Broadband had set a goal to bring wireless internet to Charles City County. But complication after complication came and went, with a target date of Dec. 2015 coming and going without any real progress. As frustrations mounted, a redesign of the wireless network in Dec. 2018 of the entire project failed to yield any internet connections through the proposed services from SCS.

As SCS Broadband attempted to rectify the problem, in January 2020 the VATI grant was awarded to Charles City with a partnership with Comcast. While Comcast touted that 70 percent of homes could be connected, county officials have yet to receive a firm number of how many homes are currently connected, with Comcast only providing “passing” numbers, or homes that are capable for the internet hook-up.

Meanwhile, in Summer of 2020, SCS Broadband’s struggles continued. Riverstreet Networks entered into the fray and purchased the company, inheriting the company’s assets along with their problems.

With many gap pockets that lacked connection services in Charles City remaining, Riverstreet’s presentation focused on filling the void of network services as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“Our goal is to serve the unserved,” said Coltrain. “We acquired SCS in the middle of last year and we are doing things to provide options to fund projects to get internet here wirelessly in Charles City.”

Coltrain talked about how Riverstreet obtained $18 million through the VATI grant, reverse auction funding, state and federal dollars, and a contribution from the company itself to assist with proving 100 percent passing in nearby King & Queen County. For Morris, he spoke about his disappointment with SCS Broadband’s work on the project.

“This project in Charles City County is behind,” Morris commented. “When they [SCS Broadband] created this project, they did not have enough people to do this. We’re here and serious about making this work.”

Morris continued, talking about the company’s successful bid of $2.9 million for the purchase of four block (technology rights) to bring services to Charles City County. They also said that despite towers nearly ready for use in the county, personnel was needed to complete the project.

“We need to hire a project manager,” Morris added. “We have a professional architectural and engineering firm, as well as a professional grade radio frequency analysis team that will help us find out what type of coverage you will get.

“We also will have a tower climb crew to install provide this verification,” he concluded.

After the presentation, District 2 representative Bill Coada asked the representatives about the number of connections the towers currently have.

“Three,” Coltrain responded, pointing to the Roxbury Industrial Park tower being the only one currently active.

“It was worse than what I thought,” Coada responded, referencing information he received in previous meeting that only 10-15 homes had the service.

In other action taken by county leaders:

–Unanimously approved the Skipjack proposal to purchase 47 acres of land at a price of $6,000 per acre. The land, located on Route 106 near Roxbury, was purchased with a goal of providing an area for economic development in the county.

–Voted 2-0-1 to move forward to conduct a retail strategy study at the cost of $80,000. The money will be used to have a firm do an analysis of possible businesses to bring to Charles City, as well as have those representatives reach out to those companies as well. Coada abstained from the vote, commenting that while he applauds the project, the timing was wrong. The District 2 representative cited a 2015 study that was conducted, as well as saying the study not an item proposed in the current fiscal year’s budget.