High-speed Internet access to be available in 2011

Published 8:37 am Friday, May 28, 2010

COURTLAND—Another option for high-speed Internet access will be coming to Southampton and Isle of Wight counties and the City of Franklin within the next year-and-a-half, thanks to funding through two grants.

“We look forward to providing this service and to being the premiere provider of broadband and voice communication in Southampton County,” Mickey Sims, general manager for the Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative, said to the Southampton County Board of Supervisors on Monday.

In April, BIT, which is based in Bracey, Va., was awarded two grants for expanding and improving existing broadband and voice communications networks.

The company was awarded an $18.9 million infrastructure grant through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, and a $3.9 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission.

“The $18.9 million is basically the cost of 80 percent of the infrastructure to build the network,” Sims said. “The additional money from the tobacco commission is for the other 20 percent.”

Upon completion, the project will offer high-speed wireless Internet at speeds of up to 10 megabits per second. The service will be available to as many as 100,000 households, 14,800 businesses, and 800 community institutions. Equipment costs for residents will also be reduced.

Thirteen other counties — Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Greensville, Halifax, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Prince Edward, Surry and Sussex — are included in the project area, as is the City of Emporia.

Sims estimated that it would be about 72 weeks before the service is available to consumers in Southampton County.

“The rules (for the grant funding) require that we substantially build out the network within a 24-month period,” Sims said. “Time is marching toward us and the engineering plan is under review now. Under the current plan, Southampton County is not scheduled to be served until the 72nd week. It is a ways down on the construction schedule as filed.”

Under the current construction plan, BIT will erect four service towers in Western Tidewater. These would be located in Franklin, Isle of Wight Courthouse, Ivor and at a location northwest of Courtland. Five additional towers would be set up in Surry, Waverly, Sussex Courthouse, Skippers and at a location northeast of Emporia.