New Kent residents could see universal broadband internet access throughout the county in three to four years, following the Board of Supervisors' unanimous vote to move forward with the project.
A North Carolina-based company that specializes in providing broadband access to rural communities, RiverStreet Networks issued a proposal offering to engineer a design that works with the county.
With the county’s approval, the company will begin designing and engineering a plan to develop a fiber-to-home network throughout the entire county. With a plan in place, the county can move forward with construction and development.
The county allocated $79,995 to RiverStreet for the business to complete the engineering plans. Once the study is finished the county will own the rights to the plan.
According to the company’s proposal, the plan will consist of a detailed countywide map of the proposed infrastructure, the estimated cost of labor, specific locations where access is not available, network speeds and a timeline of completion.
The company will have 180 days to finish its plans and turn them over to the county. Per the company’s agreement, the county owns the plans and therefore can choose to continue with RiverStreet or look to other providers to begin construction.
“The work that will be done we will own,” County Administrator Rodney Hathaway said. “So, we won’t be locked in, we can choose any provider.”
The county will pay an initial $40,000 upfront and then will make monthly payments throughout the course of the project.
While the county could utilize CARES Act funding for the project, Hathaway said the scope of the project will require more time than the Dec. 25 deadline allows. Therefore, the project will be funded through the county’s budgeted funds.
The decision came after years of planning. As the county continues to grow, the demand for adequate internet access has grown congruently. In 2019, the county formed a Broadband Advisory Committee to help develop future plans.
According to Hathaway, the committee recommended the county develop a fiber-optic network and in order for the county to move closer to that goal, it must contract an engineering plan.
“We’ve looked at various options to provide broadband services to the county," Hathaway added. “One of the advisements that came out of that committee was that fiber-optic was the best means for providing services to the county.”
While the county estimates it will take three to four years before the whole county joins the grid, it may not take as long for certain areas.
As an additional part of the engineering plans, the company will take into consideration areas with little to no access and advise the county on where to place wireless hookup sites in order to meet the county’s needs.
“I’m really excited to see we are moving forward with this plan,” Supervisor John Lockwood said. “I think that is the longest-lasting, best possible product we could bring to the community."
The New Kent Board of Supervisors will hold its next regular meeting 6 p.m. Nov. 12 at 12001 Courthouse Circle. For more information, visit co.new-kent.va.us.
Emily Holter, email@example.com, 757-256-6657, @EmilyHolterNews.
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