Bridging ‘last mile’ to provide broadband in Louisa proves daunting

As Louisa County officials push to implement a $1.1 million plan to improve broadband internet service for residents, some citizens wonder just how effective the project is likely to be and whether taxpayers should be helping to fund it.

The county is building up to 10 towers, linked via radios, to make high-speed internet access an option for at least half of the county’s residents. By building additional, shorter towers nearby, private service providers will be able to extend the network’s reach to more areas.

The broadband plan is intended as the first phase in a longer-term effort to serve the entire county, through a combination of wireless and fiber-optic technologies. As the two-year mark approaches since the Louisa County Board of Supervisors agreed to spend money on the project, officials are pushing to build the first three towers to maintain a sense of momentum.

In addition to the three towers at Jouett and Moss-Nuckols elementary schools and at Louisa County High School,  the Louisa County Broadband Authority plans a second round of towers at Trevilians Elementary School, Buckner-Bumpass Park and Twin Oaks Community.

Meanwhile, in other places around Virginia with a similar problem of poor access to quality internet, communities that have spent as long as a decade and millions of dollars to address the problem still struggle to meet citizens’ expectations.

Nelson County, which has spent $2.5 million and received another $2.1 million in federal and state grants since 2008, used that money to build 31 miles of a fiber network and four wireless towers, and has plans for more. To date, the number of customers receiving service from the county’s efforts is 368 homes and businesses, with about 200 more pending, Stephen Carter, Nelson County administrator, said.

To read the entire story, see the Oct. 5 edition of The Central Virginian.

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