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The goal: Better internet service

by Tom Chillemi

The Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) in Herndon will guide the Middlesex Broadband Authority (MBA) to define Middlesex County’s goals on how to deliver local broadband internet service.

The CIT was created in 1985 as a non-profit corporation to help entrepreneurs launch and grow high-growth technology companies and create high-paying jobs for the future, explained Middlesex County Administrator Matt Walker, who also serves as the MBA executive director. “The CIT aids in building infrastructure with broadband strategies to offer a supply and demand approach to broadband deployment,” stated Walker in a recent report to the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors.

The CIT leverages the Commonwealth’s resources in concert with Virginia’s broadband mapping data and broadband deployment planning tools to help identify gaps in broadband service, and identify key vertical assets that could address the under-served areas in the county, said Walker. CIT can also assist with funding options for new infrastructure.

Citizen input
The MBA and consultant CIT will conduct a citizen broadband survey to identify local assets and current internet coverage and gaps, explained Walker.

The Broadband Path is a six-step process that leverages CIT’s experience, knowledge, resources and relationships to develop a tailor-made strategic broadband plan and seek out and establish partnerships that will meet a locality’s specific goals, said CIT official Sandie Terry. This process has been proven to be effective as it has already led to successful partnerships between localities and broadband providers, most recently the partnership between Powhatan County and SCS Broadband, she added.

“There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to broadband, which is why it is essential for a locality to define its specific goals and partner with private providers who are willing to facilitate the expansions required to meet the goals,” said Terry.

As the MBA’s consultant, CIT will work with the MBA to develop a strategic broadband plan for the county and define requirements for establishing partnerships with the private sector.

“We look forward to working with Sandie Terry and the folks from CIT to guide us through the formative and developmental stages of the Middlesex Broadband Authority’s attempt to address this critical community need in Middlesex,” said Walker this week.

Perhaps most importantly, said Walker, CIT can aid staff in defining strategies for partnering with necessary providers and document methods for addressing broadband awareness and adoption to improve the internet for Middlesex citizens.

To facilitate national innovation leadership and accelerate the rate of technology adoption, CIT creates partnerships between innovative technology start-up companies and advanced technology consumers, explained Terry. To learn more, visit 

“Wholesale prices”
The MBA would be able to provide wireless internet service to the Middlesex County E-911 system, public schools, county government, and courts, and the county would be paying “wholesale prices” instead of retail prices, and also fill in the service gaps in fringe areas, said Walker.

The Middlesex Board of Supervisors formed the MBA in June, 2016. Forming an authority was necessary because Virginia localities are generally prohibited, with limited exceptions, from providing internet broadband services, said Walker.

Jamaica District Supervisor Wayne Jessie Sr. said in the upper part of Middlesex County internet access is expensive and some people can’t afford it. “Employing something like this (the MBA) will benefit education for your children, because a lot of them don’t have internet access and have to wait until they go to school [to use it]. You have to look ahead.”

The MBA can access state-owned land within rights-of-way for placement of its facilities.

The Virginia Wireless Service Authorities Act was enacted by the Virginia General Assembly in 2003 and enables counties, cities and towns in Virginia to form their own authorities to provide certain communications services, including high-speed data and internet access services, said Walker.

posted 10.19.2016

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