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MBC brings broadband hopes

Charlotte County Public Schools is currently working with Mid-Atlantic Broadband and Microsoft to bring wireless broadband to rural areas of the county.

According to Charlotte County Public Schools Superintendent Nancy Leonard, “Our school system is faced with real challenges of having our students and their families obtain affordable access to broadband internet services. Our instructional methods and technology continue to progress to more and more online learning and resources, and without broadband access, many of our students and their families will continue to fall behind the digital divide.”

According to the Tobacco Commission, a $300,000 grant was awarded to Charlotte, Halifax and Campbell counties to aid with this project. A project summary provided to The Tobacco Commission said, “The project would utilize unused broadcasting frequencies called TV White Spaces which are gaps left between broadcast channels to deliver wireless internet access. Through existing or to be installed towers at sixteen locations primarily in Halifax and Charlotte Counties (one location in Campbell County), the project is expected to reach over 10,000 households and 235 businesses. The commodity internet portion of the project will tie in directly with MBC’s retail ISP providers; and MBC has clarified that it does not compete with existing DSL, 4G/LTE, cable modems or other wireless ISP services. The primary service areas are those with zero broadband.”

Documents from the Tobacco Commission stated that the “staff recommends award of $300,000 to construct six mast/towers and related capital expenditures to support this project, contingent on localities agreeing to seek Southside Economic Development and/or other non-Commission funds for the non-funded cost of base stations, Customer Premise Equipment and related costs.” Grants Program Administrator Sarah Capps, with the Southside Virginia Tobacco Commission, said all three localities (Halifax, Charlotte, Campbell) have agreed to the provided conditions.

“This project not only positively affects our students but also supports their families in connecting workforce to learning resources, job application portals, and other critical workforce training resources that will help promote job training and investment in skills,” Leonard said. “Our school facilities will serve as the anchor hubs to help deliver wireless broadband to the area and it is our hope that this can help solve the rural broadband challenge.”

According to Leonard, a timeframe of delivery has not yet been established. However, “Microsoft will be working with Charlotte County Public Schools and its instructional leaders and technology team in the next few weeks to hold initial briefings, discuss how to reach students that are not currently connected to internet services, and to establish a timeframe of delivery” she said.