NEWS

Internet expansion in the works for rural residents

Thursday, Feb 11, 2016

A wireless Internet service provider currently based in Hanover County will soon be offering their services to residents living just outside of Ashland’s limits and within at least six miles of Patrick Henry High School.

Last Mile, which is still a relatively new provider to Hanover, recently started working on providing wireless Internet to Hanover residents, who are living in more rural areas and don’t have easy access to Wi-Fi. Within roughly 30 days from Monday, Feb. 8, the service will begin  to be tested on the area located within six to 10 miles of the company’s tower—Poor Farm Park tower, at Patrick Henry High School—according to Keith McMichael, a co-owner of the company.

McMichael said the project aligns with the company’s greater mission “to sell Internet to underserved and distressed communities.”

A resident’s access to this town or any other of the ones Last Mile does or will use depends on where their home is located in relation to the tower. McMichael said if it’s a single-story home, such as a rancher, and just on the other side of a hill, they would have to accommodate that specific house to make sure the tower’s signals could reach it. However, he added that such accommodations should be a rarity and roughly 85 percent of residences within the service radius of the Poor Farm Park tower should have no problem getting Internet.

At the moment, Last Mile is at the point of the project where it’s nearing completion. McMichael said they still have to mount the radio onto the tower in order to broadcast the signal to residences. Following that, they will do a week or two of “beta tests” to smooth out any kinks with the Internet service.

Last Mile is working with a Richmond-based National Communication Towers (NCT) to bring new towers into the county to provide Internet to “underserved” areas, McMichael said.

They have also been negotiating a lease with NCT on installing a brand new tower along Mountain Road (Route 33) near its intersection with Double Cedar Road in Montpelier. McMichael said individuals who live within roughly six to 10 miles of this tower be able to use Last Mile’s Internet.

At the moment, the company expects the tower to be broadcasting Internet to customers sometime in September or October. McMichael said it’s dependent upon when they get the fiber, which connects to the tower, installed.

A third tower is in the works, too. McMichael said it would be located in Goochland and would serve another part of western Hanover, which would include Rockville.

McMichael attended a community meeting that the county held on the topic of Internet roughly a year ago, where he said citizens expressed a great deal of interest in more Internet service providers in the rural parts of Hanover.

Deputy Hanover County Administrator John Budesky said the county has heard many of the frustrations from citizens that are primarily centered on “service in general, options and price points that may be available within a specific geographical region.”

McMichael himself is somewhat familiar with the county; he grew up in
Hanover and graduated from Atlee High School.

He learned about some Hanoverians’ troubles with slow or inaccessible Internet from a friend who works at Patrick Henry High School. McMichael said his friend expressed that many students at the school cannot do some of their homework because they don’t have Internet or quality access to it.

McMichael added that not only is it imperative that students have adequate access to wireless Internet but also that telecommuters and others who depend on it to make a living can utilize the service.
Adequate Internet service could also impact whether or not someone decided to live in Hanover and could affect homeowner’s property values, McMichael said.

“Now this part of Hanover will be able to compete with the rest of the tri-cities for the services available within a home,” he added.

Hanover County staff and administration has been working to bring various service providers into the county’s more rural areas for several years now. Last year the Board of Supervisors entered an agreement with Last Mile to lease two towers to them.

Budesky said Last Mile was the first of a couple Internet providers to kick this effort off.

“It’s a major step forward,” he added.

Budesky said the county is currently working with several other independent companies in hopes they will follow suit and assist with adequately providing Internet service to western Hanover.

 

Source : herald-progress.com

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