Internet access in the county
Published 4:20 pm Friday, August 9, 2019
I would like to commend Crystal Vandegrift for the articles written for The Charlotte Gazette the last two weeks on internet access in Charlotte County. She has been thorough and objective. I look forward to reading my local newspaper, and Crystal is definitely an asset to your staff.
The issue of broadband internet access in Charlotte County is one that is of utmost concern to me as a citizen, an educator and one who has done bookkeeping for a small business in this rural area. Speaking from professional experience as an information technology educator of 30+ years, broadband is simply defined as high-speed data transmission over a communication channel. In rural areas such as Charlotte County, it is a challenge to secure broadband in many homes and small businesses. In today’s world, the main methods of broadband access are digital dedicated lines such as DSL, cable broadband such as Shentel, fixed wireless communications from local towers to antennas at homes through providers such as Kinex or B2X, satellite communications such as Exede or ViaSat, and cellular transmissions using carriers such as U.S. Cellular or Verizon. Although this list may seem like a lot of choices, the fact is that most citizens in rural areas have few choices. DSL is distance sensitive and generally limited to those in towns, cable is limited to those who have cable TV access, fixed wireless is limited to those near a tower who are able to get a signal, satellite is expensive and unreliable, and many areas of Charlotte County have limited or poor cellular coverage. This does not take into account the issue of whether the service is reasonably priced. For many citizens in this county, the cost is a factor as well.
Although I am excited about the news of the substantial FCC grant to Riverstreet Communications for broadband expansion to underserved areas in Charlotte County, I am also anxiously waiting to see how the money will be spent and which areas of the county will see improvement. I respectfully ask that the County Administrator and the Board of Supervisors be proactive in working with this company and seeking accountability, fiscal responsibility, and reports of actual results achieved. Many citizens will remember that in 2010, a company in Southside Virginia was approved for over $18 million in stimulus funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 as well as $4 million in Virginia Tobacco Commission funding to install a broadband network to serve 15 counties in Southside Virginia. Unfortunately, the citizens of Charlotte County did not benefit from this endeavor and the project never came to fruition. I hope that Charlotte County will see significant broadband expansion through efforts of Riverstreet Communications and improvements cannot happen soon enough. Citizens, teachers, students, small-business owners and farmers must have internet access for day-to-day work in today’s world. It’s time we catch up with the 21st century in Charlotte County!
Joan B. Tuck